Allison Ericson, Valdosta Today News Director:
VALDOSTA — Yesterday, Dec. 3, Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber and the Rotary Club of Valdosta hosted a 2014 State Legislative Lunch to discuss issues and upcoming plans. Local State Senator, Ellis Black, and State Representatives, Amy Carter and Dexter Sharper spoke at the event.
Bruce Allred, Chairman of the Chamber of Governmental Affairs said, “I’m very proud of these people because they do everything they do with a balanced budget, we can’t say that about our federal government but we can say that about the state of Georgia.”
The session covered the issues of transportation, education, and unemployment. Ellis Black touched on the topic of transportation funds and how slow the process of receiving them can be.
“I think and I hope we see a good demonstration of the power of the governor’s office. I went into the House of Representatives in 2001 and we spent 10 years in the legislature trying to come up with the funding for transportation,” Black said. “You’ve got to keep in mind when you’re talking about transportation you’re talking about something that is long ranged.”
Amy Carter covered multiple issues with education, including funding, testing, and dual enrollment.
There is a committee currently looking into dual enrollment for primarilly high school juniors and seniors. Dual enrollment will allow these students to take classes at either their high school campus or at a college campus, and receive class credit for both schools.
“One thing that has been announced is a definite re-look at the QBE formula, which is what we use as systems, how we get our funding for students,” Carter said. “Although we have had committees that have studied it even in the last few years, there is still a good bit of outdated information in it…1983 was a long time ago and we need to update that based on the current economy.”
Carter also mentioned her hopes for a merit based pay system for teachers with lower education degrees.
“We are all paid on a state salary schedule, meaning you have this many years of experience and this much of a degree, therefore you make this much money and you can’t reach any higher than that unless you go get a more advanced degree,” Carter said. “For the teachers that are so dynamic in the classroom and don’t have a PHD, Masters degree, or Ed Specialist, this is a way they can make higher pay.”
Dexter Sharper covered the topic of employment by expressing the importance of education in the Valdosta community. He believes that employment opportunities will come here once there are more people being educated past high school.
“A more educated community that you have, the more jobs are going to come here, because I don’t think at this point we can have someone like Microsoft or Google come to Valdosta, you know why? We don’t have enough educated people,” Sharper said.
“We have to push these kids to finish school in order to get that job so that they can have the money to support their family,” Sharper said. “Im going to challenge all of you this, when you see young people, no matter what color they are, what side of the tracks they are from, just encourage them somehow, I don’t care if it’s a smile.”