Gov. Deal believes a strong education system leads to a strong economy and has made education investment a top priority.
Since taking office, Gov. Deal has focused on five strategies to improve Georgia public education:
1. Increase the percentage of Georgia students that are able to read at the third grade level by completion of third grade
Within education, the birth-to-age-8 time frame is increasingly critical. When we fail to strategically invest resources in our youngest students, we are forced to spend more money trying to remediate them later, regularly taking great pains to simply drag struggling students across the finish line to a diploma. By prioritizing early childhood education, we ensure that our youngest students are positioned for academic excellence. It is critically important that students are “learning to read” in order to be able to “read to learn,” and we can help them prepare both mentally and socially for reading proficiency by instilling language skills at a young age.
2. Increase the percentage of Georgians who hold a postsecondary credential
By 2020, more than 60 percent of job openings in Georgia will require some form of postsecondary education, whether a certificate, two year degree, four year degree, or beyond. To meet this demand, we must increase the number of students with access to some form of education beyond high school, and ensure that these students graduate with postsecondary degrees in a timely manner. The Complete College Georgia Initiative provides concrete steps to address both access and completion at all Georgia’s institutions of higher learning.
3. Increase the percentage of teachers and principals that are considered effective
The most important thing we can do for Georgia’s students is to make certain we place effective teachers and school leaders in our classrooms and schools with the tools they need to teach. We know that, more than anything else, effective teachers drive student achievement. We must use the state’s new teacher and leader evaluation systems to bring a higher level of accountability, and appropriate support to meet the accountability expectations for educational practice in Georgia so that we increase student learning and academic growth.
4. Increase teacher competency and student proficiency and achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
STEM education plays a critical role in our state’s competitiveness and future economic prosperity. We must encourage more of our best and brightest young people to pursue careers in these fields; we must improve the content knowledge and skills of our K-12 STEM teaching workforce; we must encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors as well between institutes of higher education and our K-12 schools to improve educational opportunities for students in these areas.
5. Empower citizens with public school options and local flexibility to improve student achievement
We must give traditional public school districts options for increased flexibility in exchange for increased accountability, in order to have the opportunity to innovate to improve student outcomes. Additionally, removing the strings from certain state funding streams allows budgeting to be done by those closest to the students. High-performing charter schools are another way to promote competition, innovation and creativity while encouraging strong parental involvement, and we must encourage the growth of these schools throughout the state, especially where children are trapped in failing schools.
Economic development begins with strong schools.
We must identify and implement innovative strategies and solutions to better execute on the core mission of government—to protect its citizens. We must continue to increase the presence of state law enforcement, reduce injury and loss of life on Georgia’s roadways, and appropriately deal with violators. This requires common-sense laws, well-trained and well-equipped law enforcement agencies, and an efficient judicial system.
Rehabilitating Nonviolent Offenders
To better serve all Georgians, we must expand accountability courts and do a better job of rehabilitating low-risk, nonviolent offenders that currently crowd our prisons and strain our budget. The old way of doing things has created a stagnant situation with low rehabilitation rates, high recidivism rates, and high costs. We must be smart on crime, utilizing tools which lessen the taxpayer burden while improving public safety outcomes.
Promote Successful Offender Re-entry and Compliance
Identifying and utilizing successful evidence-based offender re-entry programs and practices is critical in preventing offenders from falling back into a life of crime. Reducing recidivism through meaningful reentry programs will help make our communities safer.
Promote Safe Communities where Families and Children Thrive
Healthy family life and economic development are of critical importance to Georgia, and they depend on safe communities. We must continue to enhance the security of the facilities within our prison system, give law enforcement the tools they need, and be ready to respond to natural disasters in an efficient, timely manner.
Confronting the Challenges of Obamacare
The enactment of the federal takeover of healthcare has dramatically changed the healthcare landscape in Georgia and the nation. For the first time in the history of the United States, the new law requires citizens to purchase a health insurance plan or face financial penalties if they do not comply. While the United States Supreme Court ruled to uphold this provision of the law, they made the financially devastating Medicaid expansion optional for states. The proposed expansion plan would require our state Medicaid program to cover an estimated 620,000 newly eligible citizens in 2014, representing a 34 percent increase in current program participation. Conservative estimates project that the total cost of Obamacare is around $4.5 billion over the next 10 years. This dramatic expansion creates an unsustainable budgetary burden that threatens to crowd out all non-healthcare investment.
On October 1, 2013, the Federally Facilitated Exchange went live in Georgia and 33 other states. The state prudently decided not to spend untold dollars on building and maintaining an exchange that would be state-based in name only. From the beginning, the Federal Exchange has been plagued with serious technical glitches that have undermined its operation. Our state’s healthcare delivery system would benefit greatly from greater flexibility in operating federal programs, like Medicaid, and we will continue to protect state authority in operating state-based programs.
Fostering a Culture of Wellness
Improving the health and wellness of Georgians is essential to promoting our state as a great place to live, work and play. For far too long, the incidence of diabetes, hypertension, obesity and similar health conditions has risen in Georgia. The consequent rise in healthcare costs has adversely affected our productivity, quality of life and our ability to attract jobs to Georgia. This troubling trend must be reversed through a concerted effort to promote healthy lifestyle choices and disease prevention.
Childhood obesity is being addressed through Georgia SHAPE, a public-private partnership with partners like The Coca-Cola Company, The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and multiple state agencies.
The state is committed to the health and well-being of their employees as well. State employees have a new opportunity to stay active and fit at the Capitol Hill Fitness Center.
Strengthening the Healthcare Workforce
Georgia is home to world-class healthcare institutions and practitioners who are pioneering new advances in medical research and clinical care. However, we face a decreasing number of healthcare providers as the number of people in need of care continues to rise. To address growing demand on our healthcare system, we must find innovative ways to attract and retain highly qualified providers to our state. Working with medical, nursing and technical colleges as well as current healthcare providers and the Department of Community Health, we will work to make Georgia an ideal place to practice medicine.
Building Upon Georgia’s Leadership in Biotechnology
Georgia is a national leader in biotechnology with more than 94,000 jobs and more than $20 billion economic impact to the state. Georgia is fortunate to be home to both private and public research institutions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Marcus Autism Center, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and Georgia’s flagship medical research and education institution—Georgia Regents University—to name a few. With ongoing translational research occurring at our state’s leading institutions, and a host of healthcare providers and facilities on the cutting edge of technology, we have a unique opportunity to dramatically expand Georgia’s biotech footprint. This effort brings thousands of highly skilled job opportunities to Georgia and provides Georgia patients and providers with new therapies as they emerge right on our doorstep.
Economic development requires a well-managed healthcare delivery system providing positive outcomes and contained costs.
Building from a Strong Base
A state’s infrastructure is key to economic competitiveness and Georgia's transportation network has always been a selling point. Georgia boasts a strategic location as the gateway to the American Southeast as well as a strong collection of competitive assets, including two Class One rail lines, the most capable airport in the world along with an extensive network of regional airports, and the fastest growing ports in the nation. These assets have enabled Georgia to stand out for its ability to move people and goods efficiently.
Investing Strategically to Tackle our Network’s Shortcomings
Traffic congestion and unnecessary delays pose a real threat to our continued economic growth and quality of life. In these tough economic times, we must prioritize transportation investment to ease congestion and improve mobility. As we have one of the best transportation systems in the country, our focus on improved safety, connectivity and reliability will help Georgia continue to grow. Our key to success is making outcomes-driven infrastructure investments and practicing excellent stewardship of our transportation resources.
Investing in Georgia’s Ports
Our ports are one of the primary drivers of economic growth in our state, and Gov. Deal has already pledged $266 million to the deepening the Port of Savannah to ready Georgia for 2014, when the newly enlarged Panama Canal will begin sending larger, Post-Panamax ships to the East Coast.
Expanding Options by Looking to the Private Sector
In these challenging budget times, the state must look for opportunities to partner with the private sector to make necessary transportation improvements. Due to our positive demographic trends and strong balance sheet, Georgia is a particularly attractive location for public-private partnerships.
Economic development requires the ability to move people and goods efficiently.
Protecting Access to Water
Governor Deal remains committed to protecting Georgia’s water supply through enhanced conservation methods, developing new storage capacity, and defending any attempt by neighboring states to limit Georgia’s water rights. Recently, Florida has filed suit against the state of Georgia over water use. We remain confident in Georgia’s progress in water conservation, and recent federal rulings have only boosted our belief that ultimately we will emerge victorious in this frivolous lawsuit.
Expanding Water Supply
Over the next two decades between the years 2010 and 2030, the state’s population is projected to grow by an additional 4.6 million people. We must prepare for the expected population growth as well as the droughts that are sure to come. To that end, we will allocate $300 million over the next four years to get the ball rolling on these efforts in strategic locations around the state.
We have directed Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (“GEFA”) to develop and launch the Governor’s Water Supply Development Program. This program will mobilize state resources to assist local governments in developing new sources of water. This program will position the state to better negotiate with our neighboring states, as well as securing our economic future.
Economic development requires dependable water supplies.
Protecting Georgia’s Natural Resources
Georgia has taken steps in recent years to protect the state’s natural, cultural and historic treasures, and we will continue to promote stewardship to ensure that Georgia retains its pristine environment for future generations of sportsmen and nature lovers. The state’s natural resources must be protected for both their ecological and economic value, as they drive tourism and support jobs around the state, particularly in economically challenged regions.
Economic development depends on the sustainable utilization of our rich natural resources.