Georgia Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan’s possible run for state schools superintendent is bringing to the surface the complicated relationship she has with fellow members of Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus.
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Q AND A WITH MORGAN, CRITICS
State Rep. Alisha T. Morgan, D-Austell, is contemplating a run for state schools superintendent. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Morgan laid out her positions on a couple of important education topics.
On Common Core, the set of national education standards some have criticized as a federal intrusion into state control over k-12 education:
“I am a supporter of Common Core. I am a supporter of rigorous standards. I believe if we’re going to make sure all of our students are college or career ready, we have to have high standards. These standards were adopted by states.”
On whether Georgia should have a merit pay component to the new teacher evaluation system, as was promised in the state’s successful Race to the Top federal grant application (note: the U.S. Department of Education has threatened to withhold a $10 million portion of that $400 million grant because Georgia has not included a merit pay component to the teacher evaluation system it is developing):
“At the end of the day, this is about accountability. What you say you need to do in an application is what you need to do. It wasn’t just an application. It was a commitment to children. I would never want to be in the position of losing millions of dollars because we don’t do what we said we’d do.”
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Morgan’s possible candidacy has already drawn opposition from the Georgia Federation of Teachers, whose president, Verdaillia Turner, laid out her views on the state representative.
The AJC: Do you think Rep. Morgan would be an effective superintendent? Why or why not?
Turner: Georgia needs a state superintendent who serves children and parents, not special moneyed interests. Representative Morgan is not that person. She has used her position as an elected official to push legislation that serves special interests, rather than children and public schools. In doing so, she has been party to draining vital resources from our public schools — schools that serve every child who walks through their door.
The AJC: From what you’ve heard, would teachers support her candidacy? Why or why not?
Turner: Teachers cannot and will not support someone who works against the best interest of public schools. Those who work closest with children know what they need. They are not fooled by slick talk and misplaced priorities. They saw how the funding cuts that result from Representative Morgan’s policies impact our most vulnerable students.
The AJC: Rep. Morgan supported the charter schools amendment, which was approved by voters. Why does that not suggest that voters agree with her support for school choice?
Turner: The charter school amendment did not sail through the General Assembly easily. In the end, the amendment passed because it was slick politics, not sound policy. It took a lot of arm-twisting and outside money to impose this bad policy on the people of Georgia. The language on the ballot was misleading — probably intentionally so. Poll after poll shows that parents and the general public support fixing and funding our neighborhood schools rather than closing them and replacing them with charter schools. Georgia is no exception.
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State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, also had strong views on Morgan, saying: “The concern that I have is that on issues of supporting teachers, supporting public schools, I don’t think she’s been supportive of either. She’s been involved with the right wing on charter schools. We don’t need ‘Republican light’ in a Democratic primary. I have spoken to other legislators who have the same point of view I have. But some legislators have a tough time speaking out against a colleague. I just think that on something that’s so important, I have to speak out.”
For her part, Morgan said she has demonstrated an ability to work with Republicans but, if she ran, she’d run as a Democrat. She said she has a long track record of support for public schools, including charter schools, and hopes education groups would be supportive if she ran for superintendent.