Taylor issues budget challenge - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Taylor issues budget challenge

October 24, 2006

Albany--  Money for schools is an important issue for Georgia voters and the gubernatorial candidates who want their votes. Some school systems and Lt. Governor Mark Taylor say state funding is down. Governor Sonny Perdue insists he increased education spending.

Taylor has issued a budget cut challenge, saying he'll veto any budget that cuts school funding and he challenges his opponent to do the same thing. Teachers in Dougherty County say funding is what keeps schools thriving and one of the things they look for when they vote.

You could say that Dougherty County teacher Evangela Dawsey-Jones was born to educate. "It was just inbred, an instinct I believe," says Jones. Both of her parents were teachers so she followed in their footsteps. Now, each day she makes a difference that reaches outside of her 3rd grade classroom.

"Watching them succeed and especially watching them when they get to high school, coming back to tell me their experiences and how I impacted their lives," says Jones.

But it takes more than the dedication of teachers like Jones to teach kids in school. It also takes funding. That's why many teachers will be watching the gubernatorial race very closely.

Both candidates for Governor tout education as their priority.  Perdue says he's increased funding while in office.  Taylor says funding has actually been cut. Jones wants the person who has the best interest of Georgia schools in mind.

"Number one, I'm going to support the candidate who is in support of teachers, the one that will work as an asset to us," says Jones. Jones says a big part of that is funding but many other things are also of importance.  One is reliable insurance. "Healthcare is a major concern for educators," says Jones.

And although it isn't the major attraction that brings teachers to the field, salary also counts. "If we want to continue to recruit and retain a high quality caliber of teachers and we want to be competitive, then salary is absolutely important," says Jones.

Also important to Jones is more assistance with class size reduction. "Class size reduction remains a challenge in some places in the state of Georgia," says Jones.

These things could help her further meet the needs of her students in the classroom. "As long as I'm healthy and agile, I can go another 30 years," says Jones. That would add up to more than 40 years in the Dougherty County School System and she's banking on some state help to continue the tradition.

Mark Taylor claims that this year alone, the school budget was cut by more than $169 million and $1.25 billion over the past four years. Perdue claims that funding for schools actually rose by $1 billion while in office. Four years ago, teachers unhappy with Gov. Roy Barnes' education reform helped put Perdue in office.

This year, their main union endorsed Taylor.

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