Georgia education officials cite education loss as a top priority for 2023

(The Center Square) – Georgia education officials say they plan to address lost learning opportunities stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But a leading Georgia nonprofit says state lawmakers should pass legislation to give parents more educational choices, saying the pandemic proved the “one-size-fits-all” model no longer works.

“As we look toward 2023, we will remain laser-focused on investing in academic recovery and preparing Georgia’s students for a stronger future,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in an announcement. “We have an enormous opportunity as we move beyond the pandemic to build a public education system that is truly centered on the needs of Georgia students.”

School officials said they plan to ask lawmakers to establish dedicated funding for school safety, continue to fully fund the K-12 Quality Basic Education formula and modernize K-12 funding to take into account costs related to various student needs, ranging from poverty to transportation to technology. However, a department spokeswoman said there is no specific price tag tied to the requests.

QBE funding, for example, is formula-based and dependent on several factors, including student enrollment, Meghan Frick, the director of communications for the GaDOE, noted.

“For the dedicated school safety funding, we are not asking for a specific dollar amount at this time but will engage in dialogue with legislators and the Governor’s Office regarding the safety needs of schools and districts,” Frick told The Center Square.

In October, Georgia officials touted Peach State students’ 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, saying they were in line with the national average. However, the Georgia Center for Opportunity said news that less than a third of fourth and eighth-grade students in the state were at least proficient in reading is a “dire situation.”

“We are pleased that Georgia’s public education officials are acknowledging the very real pain of learning loss, plus the pleas of parents for as wide a spectrum of educational options as possible,” Buzz Brockway, executive vice president of public policy for GCO, said in a statement. “As we head into the legislative session in 2023, there are a wide variety of ways lawmakers can help families, including by finally passing Education Scholarship Accounts that empower families to choose the very best type of school for their students.

“The pandemic showed us that a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work in education anymore,” Brockway added. “To curb learning loss and help the neediest students among us, we must focus on providing educational opportunities for all, not just a few.”