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Official: Politicians should help students

LAWRENCEVILLE — State legislators need to stop shortchanging students, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators said this week.

In an interview with the Post, Calvine Rollins, the newly installed president of the professional organization, talked about the need for state leaders to fully fund education.

“Our politicians have merely given lip service to this critical need and the current administration has been particularly toxic for our state’s public schools,” she said. “I can only stop and wonder where Georgia would rank and how much more our children would have benefited from (having) fully funded public schools.”

Rollins noted that Georgia’s schools are functioning at the same funding levels that were used for the 2006 school year. In the last eight years, $3 billion has been taken away from public schools.

“We now find ourselves having to close schools down for days at a time; releasing many dedicated, desperately needed teachers; cramming more of our bright young minds into fewer classrooms; and limiting further learning opportunities for our classroom employees,” she said. “As a result, we are denying our children the full educational experience they have a right to expect.

“We are educationally crippling them, and I would think the public, and parents in particular, would find that unacceptable.”

To fully fund education, Rollins said GAE supports implementing a one-half cent sales tax dedicated to supporting public schools. She said the organization also supports ideas such as an increased tobacco tax.

The organization has also thrown its support behind Democrat Roy Barnes in the gubernatorial race. The GAE endorses candidates through an interview process, and a committee found Barnes to be most committed to fully funding education, Rollins said.

Although he’s still facing some backlash from his previous administration, Rollins said she thinks the former governor has the benefit of hindsight in what is truly needed to help schools and students. She noted that Barnes has apologized for former decisions that angered the educational community, and he vowed to put two educators in his cabinet.

“In the classroom, if you fail a test, ... you don’t fail the whole grade,” Rollins said.