Republican Party nominee for Georgia lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan sat down with the MDJ editorial board on Oct. 24. The following is an edited transcription of the interview.
I work for the folks across Georgia, both those that voted for me and those that didn’t vote for me. I believe that’s the role. I believe that the constitution outlines (its role) as the presiding officer. Obviously, there’s the role to step in for the governor if he’s incapacitated. We hope that not to be the case. The role of the current lieutenant governor is to be able to have a heavy influence on the committee assignments and also the legislation that comes before the body. And I believe my leadership style will thrive in that environment.
Q: If you could change one thing about public education, what would it be?
A: I think the greatest gift we can give a child in the state of Georgia is a quality K-12 education. I say that no matter if I’m in a rural classroom setting or in metro (Atlanta) ... because they’re going to be able to provide for themselves and their family.
I think one of the best tools we can introduce into the classrooms here in Georgia is more technology. This is an area I want to lead the national discussion on — I think technology, one, gives teachers and administrators more flexibility to identify throughout the course of that school year whether a kid’s above or below grade. We give that teacher the ability to be closer in instead of waiting for the end-of-the-year, milestone tests to show up, or standardized testing to show up. That is oftentimes an educational autopsy, right? It waits until the problem’s already manifested itself and then we test them, and then we wait for the end of the summer. I’ve yet to find a teacher, parent, principal (or) anybody except for a handful of legislators that think a standardized
test is really the answer.
But here’s the real benefit to technology in the classroom. That child is going to be able to take their curriculum from that day and bring it home with them in a meaningful way that either mom or dad, or both, or aunt or uncle or grandparents, who is ever in that child’s life after school, and is going to have a better chance to be able to get plugged into that kid’s day. ... I also think that we can modernize funding.
I’m proud under conservative leadership that K-12 is being fully funded now, but I think there’s an opportunity to modernize the funding . ... The cost to educate children in the county that my kids are going to public schools in is dramatically less than other counties across the state, yet our test results are so much higher . ... Ultimately, we ought
to return to the community as many of those dollars as we possibly can. I’m certain that Cobb is proud of the way you educate your kids here and feel like you would do an even better job if you had even more control here in this community. Ultimately, I just think communities are more nimble and make better decisions.
What do they call it? They call that equalization. I think that would definitely be a part of the modernization of how we fund and how we proportionately set those dollars up. And look, I want every community in Georgia to have an opportunity to be able to educate their kids . ... I can’t think of a worse situation than having to put your kid on the school bus in the morning
I was raised in a home that supports the Second Amendment and understands the value of both the sporting aspects and also the protection aspects, and I get to raise three boys in that same environment as we move forward. One of the areas that we can really focus on here in Georgia is really starting to empower communities to have a larger role in mental health and looking for opportunities to really identify — and I know that Brian Kemp and I have put out a school protection plan, and part of that was putting a support counselor in every single high school in the state of Georgia with the purpose of being able to identify and help individuals in that school with mental health issues. I think that’s an area that we can focus on here in Georgia.
I think transparency is a positive word. I’ve always felt like it puts the voters even closer to the process. I think it would be a good opportunity to record floor votes on amendments in the Senate. I got to see that play out in the House, and I felt like it was a great opportunity to really share with the voters
I definitely don’t like the mad dash on day 39 and day 40, or leading up to Crossover Day. I think there needs to be a more steadied flow of legislation, give the opportunity for the committees to not have to rush through their work, and to give the floor — each and every senator — the opportunity to be able to see and read through the bills. I think that definitely allows us to catch errors or mistakes or look for opportunities to improve those pieces of legislation.
As lieutenant governor, I would definitely continue to look for ways to spread out that workload, just like you would in a business. I think in a company, you don’t want to have two days a week where you’re super busy and three days a week where you’re not, I think there’s an opportunity for them all to be better at their jobs by being able to spread that work out.