By Maria Saporta
Gov. Nathan Deal is considering taking a page from the successful Georgia Research Alliance’s eminent scholar program and applying it to the state K-12 public school system.
Deal, who attended his third annual Georgia Research Alliance board meeting Tuesday morning, told the high level group of executives and university presidents that he has asked his staff to explore the possibilities of developing a statewide program for elementary, middle and high schools.
“I’m going to give away a secret,” Deal told them at the end of his visit with them. “The eminent scholar program has been so successful at the college level, I have asked my staff to have an eminent scholar program for our K-12 system.”
Deal said the state would identify the best teachers across the state, and then through existing technology that reaches every school, those teachers could then have an opportunity to teach students across the state.
“We think it has great promise at the K-12 level,” Deal said. It has the greatest opportunity for the least amount of money and time.”
After stepping out of the GRA meeting, Deal elaborated on his idea. He said the state would find the best teachers who exist in Georgia and offer them some incentives to participate in this program. Then through internet connectivity, they would be made available to “any school that wants to take advantage of it,” he said.
Such a program could help level the playing field among the differing school systems in the state.
Deal said he did not know how long it would take to implement such a program.
“We are probably going to have some small budgetary considerations,” the governor said. “But, by in large, I think we can do it within the resources we already have.”
During the Georgia Research Alliance board meeting, Deal had just praised the eminent scholar program, which has been in place for more than 20 years. The research universities in Georgia have been recruiting top scholars — much in the same way states go after companies.
Georgia currently has about 60 eminent scholars who have brought other researchers and millions of dollars in federal and state grants. Also their research has helped spawn the creation of dozens of entrepreneurial companies.
While Georgia has been recognized for having excellent universities, one of its weaknesses has been its K-12 public education system, which consistently ranks below the national average.