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Ga. speaker proposes alternative education program


Acknowledging that not Georgia every student will make it to college, House Speaker Glenn Richardson on Tuesday rolled out a plan designed to give those who don’t go the needed technical skills to land a good job.


Students participating in Richardson’s proposed BRIDGE program would take a combination of regular high school courses as well as specialized classes from the Department of Technical and Adult Education. It could prepare them for careers as electricians, welders, aerospace workers or a host of other in-demand jobs.


Richardson said that without an alternative path, some 40 percent of the ninth graders who just started this school this week in Georgia are likely to become frustrated and drop out.


“We think it’s time to do something about education in Georgia,” the Republican from Hiram said at a news conference at Tech High School, a charter school in Atlanta.


The speaker’s plan is similar to the career academies pushed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle earlier this year. Cagle secured funding in the state budget to set up five academies and the process is underway.


Cagle and Richardson, both Republicans, are each eying a possible run for governor in 2010 when Gov. Sonny Perdue completes his second term.


In a statement, Cagle took note of his own career academies and said he “was very pleased to see the House moving in the same direction.”


“Our ultimate goal must be letting students and parents choose the right education for individual kids,” Cagle said.


Richardson noted that his program would be statewide. High schools must offer the program but would be free to set it up as they saw fit, offering specialties needed in their particular region. The price tag could reach $20 million.


By 8th grade students would select which high school course they wanted to take. Those students who chose the BRIDGE program could reverse course and put themselves on the road to a four-year college if they changed their minds.


“We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to engage them our students by the ninth grade and educate them on alternatives to college,” Rep. Fran Millar. The Republican from Dunwoody will co-sponsor the legislation with Richardson.

– Associated Press

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