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Dave Belton

As children return to school and football season kicks off again, I wanted to talk a little about our incredible teachers.

Two decades ago, Georgia was ranked dead last on the SAT. Now, for the first time ever, Georgia beats the nation in both the SAT and the ACT. We’re also 13th best in college Advanced Placement tests, meaning many of our brightest students are earning a lot of college credit in high school. Newton County had a record 111 students who earned AP Scholar Awards, including five who earned the coveted National AP Scholar Award. (Eastside High had amazing 76 of these students.) Dual Enrollment, another earn college credit while in high school program, has also become wildly popular, saving Georgia teens thousands of dollars in expensive college tuition.

The HOPE remains the best statewide scholarship in America and is one of the main reasons the Georgia university system is now ranked amongst the best in the nation. Georgia’s new-found ability to attract the brightest minds in the nation has allowed us to become the 4th best economy in the nation and a haven of entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies … which in turn helped make Georgia the “Best Place to Do Business In” for a record 6 years in a row. Our Quick Start program is rated the best job program in the nation, attracting over 377 new businesses last year to our state. And the new HOPE Career Grant pays for a full ride for the training in 17 different high-paying careers. There is no reason why a Georgian who wants a career can’t attain a career, because the training required is absolutely free.

But as successful as our colleges and college programs have been, the big news these days have been our improvements in K-12 education.

Georgia’s graduation rate has skyrocketed in the past eight years, moving up 26 percent to a record high 81 percent. Newton County is even better, sporting an 87 percent graduation rate (Eastside is a whopping 91 percent!) Georgia’s most recent K-12 scores reported their biggest overall gains in history, increasing in 25 of 26 areas. And just last week Georgia’s K-12 schools were ranked the 13th best in the nation. That is great news for a state that was ranked near the bottom two decades ago and a testament to our hard-working teachers who are continually upping their game.

Gov. Kemp made history last year when he gave Georgia teachers their biggest pay raise in state history. Over all, half a billion dollars of new money has gone into education every single year for 11 years in a row, including almost $3.5 billion in new money the past four years alone. More significantly, over the past two years we have fully funded the QBE school formula for the first time. Nearly 55 percent of the overall budget now goes to education.

You can either invest in children or invest in prisons. I believe that children are a safer bet.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.