August 1, 2012

City Pages

Forum Aims to Provide School Solutions Without the Politics

Issues concerning education and public schools often whip up taxpayers and parents into a furor, but mainly result in more soundbites than answers. A forum the day after school starts in Clarke County aims to address the issues in an open and informative way.

Matt Jones, a South Georgia high school teacher who founded the grassroots movement EmpowerED Georgia, will lead a question-and-answer session from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Melting Point. He says he hopes the forum will get parents talking about issues they have with education in Georgia and calmly discussing them as a group. The family-friendly event is free and open to anyone.

"We definitely want the parents to drive the conversation and the dialog, and that's the purpose of the town hall format," Jones says.

The issue of funding is a big one, Jones says, as Georgia's public schools face more than $1 billion in state cuts this year. His organization's website,, not only keeps a tally of the cuts made in each school district, but also has information on a variety of issues facing parents, teachers, students, taxpayers and lawmakers. The group's campaigns include working on a better teacher evaluation system, supporting reform for high-stakes testing and, in general, working to create real solutions to problems that often result in political battles of will. The idea is to present everything in a straightforward way and strip out the rhetoric, Jones says. From that collaboration of parents, teachers, students and others, ideally, comes solutions.

When he first started the website two years ago, Jones says he was worried there wouldn't be enough content to keep people coming back. "But really, we have the opposite problem," he says. "We've really grown from that, and it's a testament to the information that's out there. We're trying to engage all education stakeholders and keep them informed on a local level."