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Tamar Hallerman

Nathan Deal lashes out at critics over education policy

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Inmate students listen to Gov. Nathan Deal's remarks during a ceremony to officially open the school. The first of what Gov. Nathan Deal envisions to be a statewide network of prison-based charter schools officially opened Thursday at the Burruss Correctional Institute in middle Georgia. Deal was on hand for the opening of the Foothills Education Charter School. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Inmate students listen to Gov. Nathan Deal’s remarks during the opening ceremony of the Foothills Education Charter School. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal’s had a busy day today.

Shortly before announcing sweeping plans for a 20 percent pay hike for state law enforcement officers and an overhaul of police training initiatives, the Republican repeated his plan to pivot from criminal justice to education policy in his final two years in office.

And he told our Insider colleague Greg Bluestein he is confident his policing initiative won’t prevent him from focusing his political capital on his vow to remake the education system.

Our colleague Ty Tagami has the details here: 

Speaking at the Georgia Education Leadership Institute, an annual conference for superintendents, school board members, principals and other education leaders, Deal tied his previous focus on helping former convicts transition to society to his pending emphasis on students and keeping them out of the prison pipeline in the first place.

“Education reform is the best and the ultimate criminal justice reform,” Deal said in an impassioned speech that went a dozen minutes beyond the allotted half hour.

The governor, who married a school teacher, said the state under his watch has spent proportionately more on education than any Georgia administration in the last half century, and he lambasted education advocates who complain about “austerity cuts” despite annual increases in the state’s education budget in recent years. He had special venom for school leaders who repeatedly failed to pass along budget increases to teachers in the form of raises and reduced furlough days over the past three years, saying he and lawmakers would make such raises mandatory in future budgets.

“The General Assembly and I have lost our patience in trusting” superintendents and local boards of education, he said.

But Deal’s sharpest words were for the critics of his proposed constitutional amendment to create an “Opportunity School District.” Read what he had to say here. 

Read More: Nathan Deal calls for 20 percent pay raises for state officers, more police training