News - Should legislators approve Gov. Barnes' $1 billion school plan?'

Yes. It's time for the Republican leadership to wake up to the reality that most Georgians want better, smaller schools

In the midst of Georgia's phenomenal population explosion, there really is only one way we can avoid building new schools: Mandate universal birth control, restricting families to one rugrat per mailing address.
Barring forced prophylaxis, however, most folks recognize that building schools is a necessary and constructive use of our state surplus.
Gov. Barnes has crafted a plan that is responsive to his critics. Georgians want smaller class sizes and smaller, community-based schools, and the governor's plan provides them. We want increased opportunities for technical education, and we want to improve the quality of education at our universities, particularly because more of our brightest students are choosing to stay in-state to take advantage of the HOPE Scholarship. There's money for that, too.
And while the governor's plan does not return every penny of the budget surplus directly to taxpayers, it will significantly reduce the local tax burden for communities that would otherwise need to raise school construction funds through bond referendums and sales taxes.
With 20,000 new houses and apartments slated for construction in Cherokee County alone, even elected officials in GOP strongholds are enthusiastic about the governor's plan. However, the new Republican leadership in the General Assembly still seems to feel the need to put partisanship first.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who replaced Bob Irvin as House Minority Leader, openly admits the need for new schools, and he cannot articulate an alternative to Barnes proposal. Even so, he chooses to hew stubbornly to the third road of opposition for opposition's sake.
It's time for the Republican leadership to wake up to the reality that most Georgians want better, smaller schools. It's called infrastructure. It's the eggs you break to make the omelet of prosperity. It's investment in the health of communities and in future generations.
It's also a big fat building project for the concrete hogs, so its beyond me why developers like westmoreland would oppose it in the first place. You can't sell those stucco uglyboxes without good schools nearby, and no matter what the Christian Coalition says about educational alternatives, they simply don't have enough church vans to shuttle half the teenagers in Gwinnett County to the Capitol every day to harass legislators about banning sex-ed, which pretty much comprises their vision.
What this debate really illustrates is a serious flaw in Westmoreland's leadership style. "Spy vs. Spy" rhetoric on such a centrist issue might pump up a few of the party loyal, but it may backfire as voters in Cherokee and Fayette grow weary of watching their kids matriculate in double-wides. The Republicans are a minority party, losing ground as they move further right. They may not want to build schools, but they better build bridges.

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