Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Governor Addresses Educators Barnes Says No to School Vouchers 1,000 Administrators Meeting on Jekyll Island

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Governor Addresses Educators Barnes Says No to School Vouchers 1,000 Administrators Meeting on Jekyll Island

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski, Times-Union staff writer

JEKYLL ISLAND -- Gov. Roy Barnes said yesterday school vouchers would do more harm than good to public education in Georgia.

"I believe vouchers will be disastrous to the public school system. . . . I also oppose vouchers because it will take away the focus on improving public schools," Barnes told a gathering of statewide school administrators.

Barnes also outlined his goals for improving student performance. The governor spoke to about 1,000 school administrators attending a four-day conference on Jekyll Island.

Barnes received two standing ovations from members of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders. The non-profit organization is made up of superintendents, principals, curriculum specialists and other administrators.

The conference, which began Sunday night with a banquet honoring educational leaders, ends tomorrow.

The conference features several speakers and offers a variety of workshops geared toward reforming education and improving student achievement.

"Basically, our focus is on educational improvement," said Jim Puckett, association executive director. "We're in the third year of education reform and we're down to talking nuts and bolts, how to go about improving student learning and achievement."

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision reaffirming the use of school vouchers -- in essence using public funds to pay for private school tuition -- was much discussed.

Georgia has no school voucher system, but Republican political leaders have tried unsuccessfully for years to have the state provide financial assistance to families in consistently low-performing schools.

Barnes said he anticipates a renewed "push for vouchers," but said he opposes them.

The association also opposes school vouchers, Puckett said.

"We're open to school choice within the public school system," he said. "Public dollars need to stay in public schools. We need to concentrate on improving public schools because that's where most students will be educated."

State education reforms have helped improve student learning, Barnes said. The reforms include reduced classroom sizes, the creation of site-based school councils involving parents, businesspeople and community leaders, and increased emphasis on preparing children at an early age for school. …

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