Bringing a message from Gwinnett County to the Capitol Hill is a vital responsibility. As part of the 2012 Federal Relations Network of the National School Boards Association, I joined 25 other school board members from the State of Georgia in bringing messages to our federal elected officials about the interests in public education of our constituents back home.
The messages had to do with current legislation being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives and by the U.S. Senate. Our visit to Capitol Hill took place on Tuesday, a day when many legislators have returned to the nation’s capital from their home districts and are accepting meetings from their constituents back home.
We were fortunate to find many in the Georgia delegation in the Capitol and available for meetings with our whole group or with us in teams of two or more.
We met first with U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss in a conference room in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. They thanked us for coming to Washington, D.C. to bring them greetings from Georgia and messages from our communities about the Federal government’s role in public education.
Topics of discussion included the waiver request that Dr. John Barge, Georgia Superintendent of Education, and Sen. Isakson presented to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting that public schools in Georgia be released from provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requested by local school systems in Georgia.
Sen. Isakson noted that he expected the waiver to be granted soon. In fact, it was granted two days after our Georgia delegation met with the two senators. Georgia is one of 10 states receiving the waiver from the No Child Left Behind legislation.
Benefits of having the waiver granted will begin in the 2012-13 academic year when local schools will not have to meet 100 percent passage rates in the state’s CRCT test for all students. Also waived will be requirements that the one-test assessment will no longer be used to determine an individual school’s Adequate Yearly Progress status.
Our next meetings were held in teams of two with members of the Georgia delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives.
With a colleague from the City of Decatur Schools, I visited with U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson. His district includes schools in DeKalb and in Gwinnett counties. He expressed interest in Meadowcreek High School, noted that he is a strong supporter of public education, and stated that his mother is a retired public school educator.
Also, with a colleague from Cherokee County, I met with U.S. Congressman Rob Woodall of Georgia’s 7th District that includes many schools in Gwinnett County.
I shared information with Rep. Woodall and Rep. Johnson about the benefits that come to Gwinnett County Public Schools from the federal funding of Title I programs, now in 55 schools in GCPS, and of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that provides support and programming for students with special needs.
Congressman Woodall is a frequent visitor to Gwinnett County Public Schools. He is supportive of public education and well versed in the issues facing constituents in Gwinnett County’s local schools, including the decline in the property tax digest, the steep decline in the county’s economy, and the loss of revenue over several years from the State of Georgia.
Federal funds account for 7 percent of the GCPS budget of $1.6 billion. It was a privilege to meet with Sens. Isakson and Chambliss and Reps. Woodall and Johnson to thank them for the role that federal support plays in the education achievement of students in Gwinnett County Public Schools.