By David Pendered
Georgia’s initiative to improve education in rural areas continues to take shape as policymakers assess census figures showing ongoing population declines that challenge efforts to maintain rural communities.
The educational platform is a recent addition to existing efforts to maintain the viability of rural Georgia by improving broadband connectivity and roads in these communities. Governor Brian Kemp and Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) have spoken on several occasions about the importance of supporting rural Georgians as well as urban areas.
On July 28, the state education ministry established the Office of Rural Education and Innovation. The cabinet-level office is to use education funding provided by the American Rescue Plan to help generally underfunded rural school systems improve student outcomes.
Some school districts are within the Atlanta metro sphere. Schools in the city of Carrollton and school districts in Douglas and Paulding counties received a total of $ 3.7 million for literacy programs for children from birth through high school.
Public School Superintendent Richard Woods appointed an assistant superintendent to lead the rural schools program, bringing in a 31-year-old educator from southwest Georgia who served as the precocious county school superintendent. In addition, the new office was named in honor of a career educator from South Georgia who served until his death in October on the State Board of Education, the David “Butch” Mosely Office. of Rural Education and Innovation. Mosely was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp to represent the 2nd Congressional District.
On September 1, the State House Rural Development Council heard a report from David Tanner, of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, which illustrated how the dwindling number of residents in rural Georgia could be ignored.
The state’s urban population has grown by around 1 million over the past decade. The increase in population and the impact it has on roads and other state infrastructure occupies the attention of agencies in the departments of transport, corrections and natural resources at ATL, which needs to improve. transit in the Atlanta metro.
The state’s rural population grew by 27,580 during the same period, from 2010 to 2020, according to Tanner’s report.
Tanner added the caveat: Rural Georgia’s population declined by nearly 38,000 when rural North Georgia mountain counties, metro Atlanta border counties, and Bryan County were excluded. . Bryan and Liberty counties are home to Fort Stewart, the largest military installation east of the Mississippi.
In this context, Woods created the Office of Rural Education and Innovation as a cabinet-level program. The office is to direct the stimulus money Georgia received from the pandemic relief program to design, develop and implement programs. The first round of funding of $ 30 million was approved on Oct. 1 by the state Board of Education.
Literacy programs in 22 districts received a total of $ 18.3 million. Broadband initiatives in 43 districts received a total of $ 1.7 million. A total of $ 4.9 million has been allocated to 57 districts to equip laboratories to teach career paths in technical and agricultural fields.
The strategy behind the effort is “to meet educational needs in rural Georgia, including connectivity, teacher retention and recruitment, resources and funding, and educator development.” Tactics must be designed by Ragan-Martin and the team he brings together.
Kemp and Woods approved the program.
“It is a top priority of my administration to strengthen and bring more opportunities and economic prosperity to rural Georgia, the new office of rural education and innovation of the Georgia Ministry of Education will support these efforts to renew and revitalize rural Georgia and ensure that our state remains the best place to live, work and raise a family, âKemp said in a July 28 statement.
Woods echoed that sentiment. “We are committed to supporting schools and rural districts and filling the gaps in opportunity that often affect students in rural areas,” he said in an October 1 statement. “These projects undertaken by the Office of Rural Education and Innovation, led by Deputy Superintendent Bronwyn Ragan-Martin, are an important first step towards the goal of renewing rural Georgia and ensuring that every child, in every part of the state has access to the opportunities that will prepare them for a bright future.