State School Superintendent candidate Joe Martin stopped in Thomson recently to talk about why he jumped in on the race for the position, which comes up for election in November.
"The General Assembly has turned its back on our schools. I'm not shy about saying that," Mr. Martin said in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror. "I can't promise I'll solve everything, but I will promise I will stand up and tell the governor what needs to be done. Because right now, they are doing what they want to."
Mr. Martin said the state superintendent does not set the budget, "but he can explain the needs and then fight for them."
"It helps to know how the budget is set, so you know how to talk the lingo," he said. "That's the difference between my opponent and me."
Mr. Martin is running on the democratic ticket against Republican John Barge.
In addition to being a business leader in the Atlanta area, Mr. Martin has been inducted into the Georgia State University Business Hall of Fame, has served on the Atlanta Board of Education for 20 years, was instrumental in writing the Quality Basic Education Act and most recently, was executive director of Georgia School Funding Association.
Mr. Martin admitted there are problems with the current math curriculum in Georgia and he'd like to encourage vocational diplomas. However, the biggest problem he sees is standardized testing. "We've become so obsessed with the tests," he said. "We need accountability, but we spend too much time preparing to take them. Our job is to make the child prepared for the world, not just for a test."
While in Thomson, Mr. Martin met with school officials, including School Superintendent Jim LeBrun, and several members of the McDuffie County Board of Education. Mr. Martin said that although the nation is in a recession, other states have not made great cuts to education budgets as Georgia has. He said he knows both candidates for state governor, and is able to work with whichever one is elected.
But, he'd also like to see some of the control shift to the local level.
"We have to have state standards and goals, but we have to free local systems to implement those goals. The principals, superintendents and boards can make better decisions for their systems than the people in Atlanta," Mr. Martin said.
"But they need to have the support of people in Atlanta. The state has to protect its schools."