Published Saturday, February 23, 2013
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Public education was a major topic at Thursday’s candidate forum for the two candidates for Georgia House District 71 runoff, Tom Crymes and David Stover.
The candidates were asked specifically about education, but the topic also came up at other points.
“I support public education, school choice, and charter schools,” said Stover in his opening statement. “But I will hold them all accountable for the funding they receive.”
The first question was what are the main issues that seem to be the most important to the people they have talked to.
“Typically, they want to make sure public education is taken care of,” Stover said. “They want to make sure that charter schools are state property and the oversight is proper on those,” he said.
Stover said he also hears that people want to make sure their gun rights are protected, and they don’t want new taxes.
There is a bill currently being debated that is basically “the baby brother of TSPLOST,” Stover said. It’s a bill that would allow various counties to band together and implement sales taxes for transportation needs.
“It’s another taxation bill. We’ve got to quit taxing the citizens,” he said. “It’s time for liberty and freedom” to take the place of government and taxes, he said.
“Throughout the last six weeks, I’ve learned a great deal through many of the people I’ve meet,” said Crymes. Two major concerns are ethics and education. The legislators are currently working on ethics bills; it’s important to make sure the bill that is passed is the right one. One early version “was going to make it difficult for constituents to talk to their representatives,” he said.
Crymes said one thing he continues to hear is “that we need a unifying voice to represent Coweta. We need someone who can go up there and represent Coweta well,” and not go up there with unrealistic expectations and ideas that “are going to get in the way,” he said.
“I can promise you I will be that voice,” Stover said in his rebuttal. “I will be the voice of reason. I will listen to your concerns and I will respond to your concerns.”
The candidates were asked whether they supported the constitutional amendment approved last year that clarified the state’s power to approve and fund charter schools that are rejected by local school boards.
Both candidates did.
“Parents need to be able to have choices” for their children’s education, Crymes said. “Education is vital to the future of the workforce, to everyone in the area. We have to have well-educated children who become adults who become citizens of the community.
“There are many ways you can educate children,” Crymes said. “The public school system does a fantastic job in this county.”
“Charters, public schools, home schools are all good options,” Crymes said. But what we can’t do is gut public schools by funding other options. “We need to stay focused on the public schools,” he said.
“I think charter schools are vital to competition in the marketplace,” Stover said.
Coweta County has great public school systems, Stover said. He earlier stated he’s “proud to say I put all of my children in our school system.” All three of them have excelled, he said. His two oldest daughters are excelling in college and one received a full ride scholarship for her Ph.D. And he attributes a lot of their success to “our educational system here in Coweta,” he said.
But not all Georgians are blessed with good schools, he said.
“South Georgia is a mess. They are underfunded. They can’t get enough money for their schools because their tax bases are so small,” Stover said. “We’ve got to take care of them.” Charter schools will help improve education in those areas and across the state. They can even help improve the state’s graduation rate.
“We are very lucky to be in Coweta,” Stover said. “I moved back to Coweta because of the school system.”
The next question followed up on those comments, asking how, given the diversity of educational systems, the legislature should deal with education in the state.
“A lot of it is going to go back to parents,” said Stover. “Quite frankly, there are good parents and there are bad parents. The education of children starts at home. It is not 100 percent up to the public educational system to educate your children. You’ve got to give them a good foundation.”
The Atlanta city schools are very well funded, but aren’t successful.
“We’ve got to stop teaching for tests,” Stover said. Schools spend too much time on No Child Left Behind. Now we’re moving to the common core curriculum. That is “going to be the next mess we get into. It’s not the answer to the education problem.”
Crymes said he sees all this firsthand. His wife is a pre-k teacher. “The amount of documentation she has to fill out is amazing. She spends more than half her time filling out paperwork to document what may be needed down the road,” Crymes said. “Let’s focus on the children and holding their parents accountable,” he said.
Crymes thinks the local school board understands the needs of children more than Atlanta does. “They need to let the local boards make the decisions and figure out what is best for them and what works. What works here may not work in south Georgia,” he said.
“We need to keep all the options open and keep the local boards engaged in the success of children,” Crymes said.
Using the “common core curriculum” is again “allowing the federal government to dictate what our schools do,” Stover said. “We need local control over our school system.” Stover added that the Montessori form of education “has it right.”
The candidates were asked what issue they would like to bring up.
Crymes went back to education. It’s the biggest thing he hears about from people. “It needs to stay in the forefront.”
Crymes also thinks ethics reform is important.
“I think the people who elect us need to believe that there is no question we are doing it for the right reasons.” The things legislators do need to be transparent. People need to be able to believe in their representatives, Crymes said. Legislators are making rules that people have to follow, so the people “need to have confidence in what we are deciding.”
“We lose more freedoms at the local level than we do anywhere,” Stover said. “We’ve got to protect our freedoms in this country, we’ve got to allow people to keep their paychecks. There should not be taxes on their paychecks,” he said. Instead, he supports the Fair Tax sales tax program.
“Let them pay at the cash register,” he said. People won’t pay taxes on necessities like food, utilities, and prescription drugs.
“Think about how much money you could save every year,” he said.
In his closing statement, Crymes said there is a clear choice between the two candidates. “We have very similar goals and beliefs,” he said. The difference is in “how you portray that... how you work with other people.
“I think one of us can reach across any issue so that we can come to a positive answer and move forward,” Crymes said. “I am going to represent this community in the House the best way that I know possible. I will make every decision with this community in mind.”
He said he will bring real world experience to every decision.
Crymes encouraged people to go out and be heard. “We had 7 percent turnout in Coweta and 2 percent in Fayetteville,” Crymes said of the Feb. 5 special election. “Go stand up and cast your ballot. Hopefully for me. But be heard. It’s an important right that we’ve worked hard for in this country. And I appreciate it more now than I ever have,” Crymes said.
“I can’t wait to hear from you guys and what you’d like to see happen in the state of Georgia,” said Stover “I have over 20 years of business experience.” He has management experience, and he knows how to grow jobs, he said.
Stover said he has worked with the Tea Party, the Chamber, and the Kiwanis Club. He’s worked with people to look at legislation.
“I believe if I am elected I will be the perfect voice of the people here,” Stover said. “I think you will find that I have a track record of working with people.”