Ga. speaker pro­poses new ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram

Pro­posed BRIDGE pro­gram aims to teach tech skills

The Covington News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Shan­non McCaf­frey

AT­LANTA — Ac­knowl­edg­ing that not Ge­or­gia ev­ery stu­dent will make it to col­lege, House Speaker Glenn Richard­son on Tues­day rolled out a plan de­signed to give those who don’t go the needed tech­ni­cal skills to land a good job.

Stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing in Richard­son’s pro­posed BRIDGE pro­gram would take a com­bi­na­tion of reg­u­lar high school cour­ses as well as spe­cial­ized classes from the De­part­ment of Tech­ni­cal and Adult Ed­u­ca­tion. It could pre­pare them for ca­reers as elec­tri­cians, welders, aero­space work­ers or a host of other in- de­mand jobs.

Richard­son said that with­out an al­ter­na­tive path, some 40 per­cent of the ninth graders who just started this school this week in Ge­or­gia are likely to be­come frus­trated and drop out.

“ We think it’s time to do some­thing about ed­u­ca­tion in Ge­or­gia,” the Repub­li­can from Hi­ram said at a news con­fer­ence at Tech High School, a char­ter school in At­lanta.

The speaker’s plan is sim­i­lar to the ca­reer acad­e­mies pushed by Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle ear­lier this year. Ca­gle se­cured fund­ing in the state bud­get to set up five acad­e­mies and the process is un­der­way.

Ca­gle and Richard­son, both Repub­li­cans, are each ey­ing a pos­si­ble run for gov­er­nor in 2010 when Gov. Sonny Per­due com­pletes his sec­ond term.

In a state­ment, Ca­gle took note of his own ca­reer acad­e­mies and said he “ was very pleased to see the House mov­ing in the same di­rec­tion.”

“ Our ul­ti­mate goal must be let­ting stu­dents and par­ents choose the right ed­u­ca­tion for in­di­vid­ual kids,” Ca­gle said.

Richard­son noted that his pro­gram would be statewide. High schools must of­fer the pro­gram but would be free to set it up as they saw fit, of­fer­ing spe­cial­ties needed in their par­tic­u­lar re­gion. The price tag could reach $ 20 mil­lion.

By 8th grade stu­dents would se­lect which high school course they wanted to take. Those stu­dents who chose the BRIDGE pro­gram could re­verse course and put them­selves on the road to a four- year col­lege if they changed their minds.

“ We need to be hon­est with our­selves. We need to en­gage them our stu­dents by the ninth grade and ed­u­cate them on al­ter­na­tives to col­lege,” Rep. Fran Mil­lar. The Repub­li­can from Dun­woody will co- spon­sor the leg­is­la­tion with Richard­son.

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