Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle lays out his vi­sion for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion

The Standard Journal - - COMMENTARY - By DICK YAR­BROUGH

Once upon a time, there was a lieu­tenant gover­nor in Ge­or­gia who later be­came gover­nor. He had a vi­sion for im­prov­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in the state. His name was Zell Miller. His vi­sion was the HOPE schol­ar­ship, funded by the Ge­or­gia Lot­tery, which gives fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to el­i­gi­ble stu­dents who at­tend our state’s col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. It has been a game-changer.

Prior to the cre­ation of HOPE, I was laughed out of pri­vate schools for sug­gest­ing to coun­selors that their stu­dents might con­sider at­tend­ing the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia. No longer. To­day, I get en­treaties from pri­vate school par­ents whose chil­dren can’t get into UGA.

Now, another lieu­tenant gover­nor has a vi­sion for im­prov­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in Ge­or­gia. His name is Casey Ca­gle. I suspect he might be run­ning for gover­nor, but I haven’t asked him be­cause I know he wouldn’t tell me at this point in time. He has a new book out, en­ti­tled “Ed­u­ca­tion Un­leashed,” that spells out what our pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem needs to do to en­sure that Ge­or­gia builds a world-class work­force to at­tract new in­dus­tries and en­sure cur­rent busi­nesses don’t have to im­port la­bor from out­side the state, as well as help­ing stu­dents find a ca­reer path that uti­lizes their skillsets and in­ter­ests.

“I wrote the book,” he told me in his of­fice, “to paint a very clear vi­sion of what ed­u­ca­tion can be­come in Ge­or­gia and high­light­ing the two spe­cific pro­grams that have demon­strated re­mark­able suc­cesses.” Both pro­grams are al­ready up and run­ning and Casey Ca­gle was the driv­ing force be­hind their cre­ation.

One is the charter sys­tem model which cur­rently num­bers 40 pub­lic school sys­tems in the state with another two about to come on­line. That equates to about 20 per­cent of the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion in Ge­or­gia.

The other pro­gram is the Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy, where busi­nesses part­ner with lo­cal high schools and tech­ni­cal col­leges to al­low stu­dents to ob­tain a tech­ni­cal cer­tifi­cate upon grad­u­a­tion and to be­gin em­ploy­ment with a lo­cal com­pany. Stu­dents re­ceive spe­cific train­ing and de­velop spe­cial­ized skills that will al­low them to pur­sue a ca­reer path that uti­lizes those in­di­vid­ual skill sets or to con­tinue their post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion.

Ca­gle said, “I call our charter sys­tems ‘lab­o­ra­to­ries of in­no­va­tion’ that not only mo­ti­vate the stu­dents but as­sure Ge­or­gia in­dus­tries of a qual­i­fied work­force.” Each charter sys­tem puts to­gether a five-year strate­gic plan with goals and mea­sure­ments, not un­like what takes place in the cor­po­rate world and pushes gov­er­nance down to the lo­cal com­mu­nity level in ex­change for higher than nor­mal ac­count­abil­ity. The lieu­tenant gover­nor says, on av­er­age, the charter sys­tems are out­per­form­ing ev­ery other school sys­tem in the state based on the Mile­stones test.

As for the Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy, the spec­i­fied stu­dent train­ing is at­trac­tive to area busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties pros­per from a highly-trained lo­cal work­force. Cur­rently, about 20,000 stu­dents are en­rolled in 37 acad­e­mies around the state. It is Casey Ca­gle’s in­ten­tion that ev­ery stu­dent in Ge­or­gia have ac­cess to these acad­e­mies by 2020.

Ca­gle said, “In pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, we must get away from the one-size-fits-all model of top-down management and re­verse it to a bot­toms-up sys­tem and take each stu­dent as far as you can take them aca­dem­i­cally and pre­pare them for life. I have pro­vided a very clear road map that says if you want the clut­ter out of the classroom and own­er­ship and de­ci­sion-mak­ing in your lo­cal school, here is your op­por­tu­nity.”

He be­lieves change must come to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in the next five years or the pub­lic will grow tired of the is­sue and find al­ter­na­tive ways to ed­u­cate their chil­dren.

With evan­ge­lis­tic fer­vor, Casey Ca­gle be­lieves charter sys­tems and Col­lege and Ca­reer Acad­e­mies are the an­swer to what ails pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in Ge­or­gia. In “Ed­u­ca­tion Un­leashed,” Ca­gle says, “Charter sys­tems and Col­lege and Ca­reer Acad­e­mies are prov­ing ev­ery day that we can re­design our schools to pro­vide high qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to all our stu­dents.” In do­ing so, Ca­gle be­lieves schools un­der lo­cal con­trol with high ac­count­abil­ity will cre­ate a bet­ter com­mu­nity.

While Gov. Nathan Deal’s pre­pares his ed­u­ca­tion re­form pack­age for the 2017 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, Lt. Gov. Ca­gle doesn’t be­lieve any­thing be­ing pro­posed will im­pact his ini­tia­tives which are al­ready in place.

There is a gover­nor’s race com­ing up in 2018. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if this lieu­tenant gover­nor in­tends to carry his vi­sion for im­prov­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion into the gover­nor’s of­fice as did Zell Miller. If so, may he have equal suc­cess.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at [email protected]­; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139; on­line at dick­ or on Facebook at www.­yarb.


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