Education | WABE 90.1 FM


In this June 2, 2015 file photo, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks to reporters following a ceremony announcing a $300 million expansion of Google's data center operations in Lithia Springs, Ga.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia has funded its public schools the same way for 30 years. Some educators and lawmakers are complaining the formula the state uses is old and out-of-date.

Now, a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal has recommend lawmakers adopt a completely new way to fund schools.

Here, we take a look at the differences between the "old" and "new" ways to pay for public education.

In the Beginning

Martha Dalton / WABE

There are plenty of issues facing Georgia's public schools in 2016 — from funding to figuring out what to do with failing schools.

Dana Rickman, director of policy and research with the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said Georgia needs to 'mind' the various gaps between kids.

"We have income gaps; we have achievement gaps; we have health gaps; we have expectation gaps; we have mobility gaps,” Rickman said recently at the GPEE’s media symposium. “There are a lot of freaking gaps out there."

Gabbie Watts / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

At the beginning of this school year, Atlanta Public Schools reduced its number of music teachers by a third. There are now about 40 music teachers in the district.

Even with fewer teachers, music education inside Atlanta's schools does have variety. Guitar classes are offered at several high schools and one middle school.

The state board of regents has approved a building project on the University of Georgia's main campus in Athens.

The regents on Wednesday approved the third phase of the university's $140 million Business Learning Community, The Athens Banner-Herald reports.

The business college occupied Correll Hall, the first of the three buildings, earlier this year. Officials ceremonially broke ground the second building, Amos Hall, on Sept. 18, 2015.

Karen Apricot /

Georgia teachers blame the number of state-mandated tests and changes to the way teachers are evaluated for colleagues leaving the profession.

That's according to results of a teacher survey released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Education. State officials say the survey tries to determine why 44 percent of teachers are leaving the profession before five years and fewer students are studying to become teachers.

Alison Guillory / WABE

The state legislative session will begin next week, but some issues, like performance-based pay for teachers, are already causing a buzz.   

Georgia currently pays teachers based on their level of education and years of experience. The state pays a base salary, and school districts can supplement that if they choose.

Last month, a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended revising the salary system. Chairman Charles Knapp said the commission proposed asking school districts to come up with their own pay scales instead.

During World War II, American troops crossed oceans. But in December, some Gainesville students crossed time to experience some of those darkest moments in modern history.

Thanks to an open science lab doubling as a time machine, sixth-graders at C.W. Davis Middle school were transported back to the era of World War II.

Tasnim Shamma / WABE

A first-of-its-kind private school in Georgia aimed at attracting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and teachers is being established in Atlanta for students who feel bullied or not accepted in traditional schools.

Pride School Atlanta is a k-12 institution designed to be an alternative for LGBT students, though the school is open to any student who believes they're not getting the support they need for "being different," says Pride School founder Christian Zsilavetz.

The state board of regents is set to approve a building project for the University of Georgia.

The regents are expected to approve the third phase of the university's $140 million Business Learning Community when they meet Wednesday in Atlanta, The Athens Banner-Herald reports.

The business college occupied Correll Hall, the first of the three buildings, earlier this year. Officials ceremonially broke ground the second building, Amos Hall, on Sept. 18, 2015.

A new state audit suggests that lawmakers may want to reconsider incentive programs aimed at attracting more and better-trained math and science teachers.

Lawmakers approved the program in the late 2000s amid concerns about a shortage of math and science teachers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The program, which pays incentives to some math and science teachers, is budgeted to cost more than $15 million this year.

US Department of Education /

A state representative has pre-filed a bill ahead of the upcoming legislative session that would increase the mandatory school age in Georgia.

Democratic Rep. Keisha Waites of Atlanta has authored legislation that would require students to start school at age five instead of six.

Under the bill, students would also have to stay in school until age 17, instead of 16.

Nick Nesmith/WABE

This year, a group of parents in DeKalb County are starting to see their persistence pay off. 

Fighting for Rights 

Parents, like Kirk Lunde, are fighting for their children's education. Lunde’s son, DeShawn Lunde, is in high school now. Every year, Lunde has had to make sure DeShawn gets the classes he needs. DeShawn has a hard time expressing himself, and his father said he needs help with social skills.


A north Georgia college is among several dozen religious schools that have applied for waivers from federal anti-discrimination statutes protecting transgender people.

Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, received Title IX exemptions earlier this year. 

Originally designed to fight discrimination against women in educational settings, Title IX was expanded in 2014 to include protections for gender non-conforming people. 

Susan Walsh / Associated Press

No Child Left Behind is no more.  Congress and President Obama have replaced the controversial federal education framework with a new law, called Every Student Succeeds.  The new rules will certainly affect Georgia, as it strives to improve its student performance and graduation rates.

STE(a)M Truck brings science, technology, engineering, mathematics--and yes, arts--to Atlanta schools without strong STEM programs.
Alison Guillory / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

How do you close the classroom achievement gap between rich and poor when it comes to science and math education? An initiative called STE(a)M Truck believes you need to take the classroom out of the equation.

Victoria Ruffin and Anaya Witchett, eighth graders at Kipp Ways Academy, are working on an invention.

Karen Apricot /

More than a quarter of Georgia students live in poverty, according to research from the Kids Count Data Center. In a new report, a majority of teachers say that is the biggest barrier to student achievement.

The study, issued by the nonprofit organization Communities In Schools (CIS), says kids in poverty often skip school. Georgia chapter President and CEO Carol Lewis says the reasons range from hunger to health problems to not having the right supplies.

Martha Dalton/WABE

A commission tapped by Gov. Nathan Deal and charged with reforming some of the state's education programs presented its recommendations to him Tuesday.

The proposal includes a new way to fund schools.  One controversial piece of that is teacher pay.

Right now, Georgia pays teachers based on their teaching experience and level of education. That salary system is known as "T. and E."

Martha Dalton spoke with Commission Chairman, and former UGA President, Charles Knapp about the recommended changes.


Atlanta Police Department Badge
Alison Guillory / WABE

The Atlanta Public Schools' board of education has voted to terminate its contract with the Atlanta Police Department as it takes steps toward creating its own police force.

Media outlets report that the board voted Monday to end the contract and produce a plan to hire its own school resource officers.

Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan says the resource officers will be armed, sworn officers, who will be specifically trained to deal with children.

US High School Graduation Rate Hits Record High

Dec 15, 2015

For the fourth straight year, the U.S. high school graduation rate has improved — reaching an all-time high of 82 percent in the 2013-2014 school year, the Department of Education announced Tuesday. Achievement gaps have narrowed, too, with graduation rates ranging from 89 percent for students classified as Asian/Pacific Islanders to 62.6 percent for English-language learners.

"It is encouraging to see our graduation rate on the rise and I applaud the hard work we know it takes to see this increase," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement.

Alan Diaz / Associated Press

A report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an overwhelming majority of Georgia high schools and middle schools aren't teaching all of the agency's recommended sex education topics.

The report, conducted during the 2013-2014 school year and released Wednesday, says Georgia's high schools performed better than most states on the majority of the 16 recommended topics.

Bill Roa / Georgia Perimeter College Office of Marketing and Communications

Georgia Perimeter College has been approved to become a part of Georgia State University. 

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional accrediting agency, announced its approval of the plan submitted by Georgia State on Tuesday. 

The merger will boost enrollment at Georgia State to more than 54,000 students and make it the largest university in Georgia.

A Name Change

Georgia Perimeter College will undergo a slight name change to join Georgia State. 

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

Updated at 11:40 a.m.


President Barack Obama has signed into law a major education law setting U.S. public schools on a new course of accountability.

Obama signed the bipartisan rewrite of No Child Left Behind at the White House on Thursday.

The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve.

Obama calls the law a "Christmas miracle." He's praising Republicans and Democrats for coming together to pass the long-awaited legislation.

Emory junior Jasmine Jett

Emory University says it will set up a task force to look at the feasibility of blocking a popular social media app called Yik Yak.

This is in response to demands from black student leaders who say it’s a breeding ground for hate speech against students of color on campus.

Yik Yak is an Atlanta-based social media app that's now on more than 2,000 university campuses around the country.  

With the app, you can anonymously post a comment or a “yak” and everyone in nearby ZIP codes can see, share and rate your comment with an up or down vote. 

DoDEA Pacific /

The U.S. Senate is expected to take a final vote Wednesday on a law that would replace the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind.

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes music as a core subject – along with English, math, science and history – for the first time.

Cecil Wilder, the executive director of the Georgia Music Educators Association, says that's good news for students here.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools is a "choice-friendly" district, according to a new report from the Fordham Institute. Choice-friendly means children can attend schools outside their neighborhoods. But the study also says APS could offer more options for families.

Fordham gave APS high marks for its school choice policies. But the district scored lower on the quantity and quality of its programs. Also, it doesn't provide transportation. So students who choose to go to a school outside their attendance zone have to find a way to get there.

Nick Nesmith / WABE

The DeKalb County school board said "yes" Monday to a proposal that will give raises to teachers, principals, media specialists, and other employees.

Superintendent Stephen Green drafted the plan after comparing DeKalb’s pay scale to those of surrounding districts.

“We’ve lost candidates because--money’s not everything-- but it is a determining factor, and someone could go next door and say, ‘I’m going to make $15,000 more,’” Green said.

Every teacher will see a pay increase of at least 2 percent. Those with 7 to 17 years of experience will get the biggest raises. 

Nick Nesmith / WABE

DeKalb County teachers could get a pay boost if the school board approves a new salary proposal Monday night.

Under the plan, every teacher would see a pay increase of at least 2 percent. Those with seven to 17 years of experience would get the biggest bump. DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green says the district did its research, and it found out it pays teachers in that experience range thousands less than other Atlanta school systems.

Courtesy of the Atlanta Public Schools

  The Atlanta Public Schools received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institute of Justice to research school safety. But that doesn’t necessarily mean more surveillance cameras and resource officers.  

APS will partner with researchers from Georgia State University and educational nonprofit WestEd to come up with a plan to improve students’ safety. Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says that could mean looking at discipline differently:

A member of the black student protest group Concerned Student 1950 gestures while addressing a crowd following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe would resign Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wo
Jeff Roberson / AP Photo

Protests by University of Missouri black students that forced the administration to address racism and other problems mirror efforts decades ago that led many majority-white schools to create African-American studies and other programs.

But some experts say those programs and ethnic studies departments across the country are struggling with funding, low-staffing and dwindling enrollment.

The Georgia State Panthers Football team plays in the NCAA Division I.
Georgia State University

Each year, Georgia State University students pay $554 to support the school's athletic teams.

In the past five years, students paid $90 million ─ among the highest student contributions to athletics in the country, according to The Chronicle for Higher Education.

Commuter School