Editor's note: the following letter to the editor was submitted by Woodstock resident John Konop.
Georgia needs to increase education quality and decrease costs in light of flat tax revenues. Students and parents face skyrocketing post-high-school education costs and an extremely competitive global job market that demands real skills and experience.
Sharing resources across our higher education system (colleges, universities, community colleges, and vocational schools) and our high schools will substantially answer these challenges. The goal is to create clear and cohesive vocational and college prep paths starting as soon as the ninth grade.
New vocational tracks will allow high school students to attend local vocational schools to receive marketable job training and a high school diploma. The requirements for graduation/certification should be set by the current accepted vocational/community college system. Students that pass a state-approved vocational school program earn a high school diploma, regardless of whether they have or not they have met all of the high school’s other curriculum requirements.
Transferring payments between high schools and higher education schools would be straight forward, requiring only a modest expansion of Georgia’s existing college-prep joint enrollment program payment sharing framework.
We should also expand the general public’s access to higher education by letting those schools offer night classes in high school facilities. It would increase higher education enrollment by making classes more geographically convenient to attend and would slow the need for higher education schools to build more space, ultimately saving taxpayers money. Coordinating college and vocational program requirements with the chamber of commerce will help ensure that employer needs are met and would foster the creation of valuable co-op and internship opportunities.
High school students who are enrolled in a higher education program could have their annual No-Child-Left-Behind (NCLB) standardized testing requirements waived because they would have already exceed NCLB-equivalent requirements to get into their program. This will decrease the burden on Georgia schools and taxpayers by eliminating redundant end-of-year testing and tracking costs.
Resource sharing will lower Georgia’s dropout rates by giving high school students education options that meet their aptitude, rather than using today’s failing one-size-fits-all approach. For example, requiring a student with an aptitude for mechanical work to pass Algebra II in order to graduate high school creates far more dropouts than it does mechanics who factor polynomial equations during their lunch break. It would also stimulate the economy by creating more work-ready job applicants.
Finally, resource sharing will significantly reduce costs for Georgia families by increasing the opportunities for high school students to receive vocational training or some college course credits—both of which are extremely expensive to acquire once a student leaves high school. Working high school students will also have greater schedule flexibility to help meet their employer’s needs.
Let’s put ideology aside and work together to create a system that builds on each student’s aptitude. Our existing one-size-fits-all system is leaving too many of our kids behind.