By Tia Lynn Ivey
As State Representative Dave Belton appeared before the Morgan County Board of Education last Monday to deliver praise for the school system accomplishments as well as tease the upcoming legislative session in 2021.
Belton, the house representative for Georgia’s 112th District, serves on various house committees, including education, economic development and tourism, energy utilities and telecommunications and interstate cooperations.
In his presentation to school board members Monday evening, Belton shared his goals for the upcoming legislative session in the realm of education.
Belton hopes to see more bipartisanship in the Georgia’s House and Senate.
“Republicans still have a majority in the house and the senate, but it’s closer than it was,” said Belton. “I am hoping we will be more likely to work with one another and reach across the aisle to pass some common sense legislation,” said Belton.
Belton is working on a few bills regarding the state of education in Georgia. The first bill aims to empower school system to hire back retired teachers at full pay.
“The first is a teacher return-to-work idea that allows local school boards to hire retired teachers in special need areas and let them return to work full-time,” explained Belton in another interview.
Belton also said he believes the state will pass a pay raise for teachers. The last time the raise was proposed, The House budget included a $1,000 teacher pay raise, as well as a 2 percent merit pay increase for most state employees.
Belton is also working on a bill that would give a sizable tax credit to any teacher willing to teach at a rural school or failing school in Georgia.
“This is targeted teacher incentive that will give a $3,000 fully refundable tax credit to a teacher (for five years) who is willing to move to a distantly rural or turnaround eligible school,” explained Belton.
Belton is also working to reduce the number of standardized tests administered in Georgia school.
“We want flexibility. We want to let teachers teach and not get in their space,” said Belton. “We would like to get the standardized testing down to the federal level.”
Belton also said he’s teaming up with a democratic representative to form the “MLK initiative,” which would be a voluntary curriculum to teach school children about the “positive change Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. achieved through faith, education, and nonviolence.”
“Sometimes I think we forget how all the good stuff got done,” said Belton. “We want to engender our children on how it all got done.”
Belton praised the Morgan County Board of Education for the accomplishments the school system has achieved under their leadership.
He noted Morgan County is considered the eighth best school system in the state and the best charter school system in Georgia.
“People want to move here because of the schools,” said Belton. “You all did that.”
He praised the BOE for building a new high school, middle school, and career academy, along with completing other school infrastructure updates without raising taxes.
“You’ve done all this without ever raising the millage rate over the rollback rate,” said Belton. “It’s truly incredible.”
Belton noted that the new ball fields and soccer fields, as well as the new gyms at the primary school and elementary school are valuable assets to the students of Morgan County. He also praised the BOE for helping the county to build the Morgan County Library and Aquatic Center .
Outgoing Chairman Nelson Hale thanked Belton, who used to serve on the Morgan County Board of Education before venturing into state politics, for his work on behalf of education in Georgia at the state level.
“I appreciate you stepping up at the state and working on behalf of education in particular,” said Hale. “And you have always tried to help us at the local level any way you can. We thank you for it.”