Georgia’s Alisha Thomas Searcy on School Choice, Teacher Unions, & Elections

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard talk with Alisha Thomas Searcy, the Democratic nominee for Georgia state school superintendent. She shares her experience as a former six-term state legislator and school leader; her recent bid for Georgia’s top education post; and her passion for K-12 education reform. They explore her support of charter schools, school choice, and other accountability-based reforms, and how it impacted her reception within the Georgia Democratic Party, and among gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams and the teachers’ union (which endorsed her Republican opponent). She talks about the endorsements she received from bipartisan national figures such as former U.S. secretaries of education Rod Paige and Arne Duncan, as well as the fundraising realities of running for office, and the business community’s commitment to K-12 school reform. She shares insights on how education reform will likely proceed politically in Georgia and nationally.

Stories of the Week: How will the 2022 mid-term election results impact K-12 education? Cara and Gerard discuss. In New Mexico, voters passed a ballot measure that provides over $150 million a year for early childhood education.

Guest:

Alisha Thomas Searcy was the 2022 Democratic nominee for Georgia state school superintendent. She is a former six-term state legislator in Georgia. Alisha was co-author of the state’s constitutional amendment to create a state charter authorizer, and author of the state’s intra-district transfer law. She is former Superintendent of Ivy Prep Schools in Atlanta. Alisha is currently a speaker, author, CEO and host of “Fearless Chic,” a podcast for women.

 

The next episode will air on Weds., November 23rd, with Nathaniel Philbrick, an American historian, winner of the National Book Award, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and author of Mayflower: Voyage, Community, and War.

Tweet of the Week:

News Links:

How is education faring in the 2022 midterms?

https://www.k12dive.com/news/how-did-education-fare-2022-midterm-elections/636153/

 New Mexico voters enshrine early childhood education in state constitution

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2022/11/14/new-mexico-childhood-education

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Please excuse typos.

[00:00:00] Cara: Listeners, this is Cara Candal This podcast will be coming to you, , on November 16th, and I’m here with my wonderful co-host, Gerard Robinson, who I’m sure many of you have been thinking about lately because he. Opens almost every podcast telling us what a beautiful day it is in Charlottesville, Virginia.

[00:00:45] And that community has been visited by tragedy, as many of you know, in just the past two days. And Gerard, I can only Imagine the, pain that your community is in, and I’m, I’m happy to know myself that you and your family are okay.[00:01:00] But our hearts go out to the entire city, to the university, and to.

[00:01:06] There’s so many, many, many people impacted by this and who will be impacted by this for years to come. So, Gerard, how you

[00:01:13] GR: doing? Well, first of all, thanks for saying that, and you’re correct. I always say that I’m coming to you from beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia, and it’s beautiful today, but just a little less beautiful and it’s raining a lot.

[00:01:24] But a lot of the the wetness on the ground from tears of thousands of students, faculty members, friends, really the city of Charlottesville some of you may not know. A few days ago a former football player was on a bus with a number of students and faculty from University of Virginia.

[00:01:41] They traveled to Washington, DC on an outing, returned home, and some words were exchanged. And the young man killed three students all 20 years old from different parts of the country. And he then escaped. He was on the run for over 12 hours [00:02:00] and they were finally able to apprehend him near his home in the Enrico slash Richmond Virginia area.

[00:02:06] He’s now in custody. I think he went through arraignment today. But you can just imagine the level of shock here. And so there was a candlelight visual. With hundreds of students who had come out with candles commentary and everything else. So I ended up canceling a three day event that I had in the DC area to return.

[00:02:26] Home a to be with Kimberly and my girls, who are, you know, are moved by this as well. And also to be a support person to administrators at UVA faculty. I reached out to my students as well, but also making phone calls and making connections where I can to people in Richmond. As many of you know, we had a sh.

[00:02:44] Shooting at Virginia Tech years ago. And so there are people who remember that vividly who were there or who were in the positions of state government, who knew what leveraged the pool and what people to call in order to provide support ranging from trauma support to [00:03:00] emotional support, to just a voice to talk to, and the university president James Ryan and the police chief.

[00:03:07] Have done just a wonderful job in this, in this time to reach out and keep the movement going. But also want to thank the hundreds of faculty members and deans who often you don’t know by name but who’ve become the mother, the father, the auntie, the uncle, big mama on campus for people. So keep us in your prayers.

[00:03:26] This is. The kind of norm that we want. And as we talk about on the learning curve, this is a learning moment. And what I would hope not to happen, but too late already, is for us to starts talking about is this solely about the Second Amendment or the First Amendment? All I know is that there are three young men who are dead who won’t return home.

[00:03:46] The Thanksgiving next week the young man who. Allegedly killed them. I’ve gotta use that language. Cause that’s what we know now. His life has changed one way or another. And as moms, you and I are both parents to receive that phone call [00:04:00] from someone at college. Unimaginable. Yeah.

[00:04:03] Cara: So thank you for any time.

[00:04:05] At any time. Yeah, absolutely. Unimaginable. You know, Gerard, thank you for noting that we could get into issues of. Opinions and the constitution and the law. But I, I couldn’t agree more that this is not the place for that. And now probably here and now, not the time for that in my opinion. But one thing I would like to say is I think that we underestimate in the wake of these many, many events and when they hit home, you and I were talking the other day, and it’s like you, you nev you know that this could happen, that anywhere, but you never actually think that.

[00:04:37] And I think that too often. We now move past these events without recognizing the extreme overwhelming emotions that people will experience for years in years to come. And that’s something that I hope we can all keep in mind going forward with compassion in [00:05:00] our hearts. For those affected and you didn’t just have to be involved to be affected.

[00:05:04] It, really affects the entire community. Okay, Jared. Well, we do have other things to talk about today. As you said, it’s a rainy day in Charlottesville. it’s feeling a little dark here as I record from my home office. But we have, you and I, last we spoke, we’re talking about the midterm elections and now we’ve got some pundits weighing in on, you know, how did education fair.

[00:05:25] So I’ve got an article today from K to 12 DIVE talking, and the title is Early returns. How is education faring in the 2022 midterms? And this is an article by Kara Arundel and Naz Moan. I’m sorry if I mispronounced those names. I think I got Kara right. I should know that one. If this article, you know, Jared, I think , no matter how you feel about the actual outcome of the midterm elections, which I think were surprising to many of us, no matter how we voted you could be happy or sad, but you’re still surprised.

[00:05:56] One thing I will say, and I think you know this about me, Gerardo, my listeners have [00:06:00] probably guessed that while I tend to lean pretty moderate in my, my life and my politics, I do lean conservative when it comes to education reform. I believe that it’s an agenda that’s proven to work for, kids.

[00:06:12] I’ve been thinking about, you know, the fact that so much that regarding education happens in the states and especially when governor’s offices. Are up for grabs and we swing from one party to the next. And there’s not a lot of continuity between administrations from every four years to everybody.

[00:06:29] Just how difficult it can be to get things done. And this article does it, talks about some of the great ballot measures that were passed and initiatives that were passed. But really in, in talking about, you know, the gubernatorial elections, we are gonna see a pretty dramatic swing in a couple states, Arizona being won you know, That ESA that happened the universal esa that, that made it through before these elections is gonna be a great boon for families.

[00:06:54] But it’ll be really interesting to see what happens in a state like Arizona that’s known for really bold [00:07:00] education reform and I think was under Governor Ducey. We’ll see what happens next. A state like Wisconsin where Dems retained the governorship, it’s gonna be, interesting to see if they.

[00:07:09] Continue on the path that they have been. So I’m always thinking about the extent to which governor’s races really can impact K to 12 education reform. But here are just a couple of highlights for our listeners on state measures that I think are pretty cool and something that we haven’t talked about a whole lot.

[00:07:25] So there was a referendum in Colorado to provide. Free school meals to all students, and that got a majority of support. Of course, a couple states, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, already do that. So that means just every student is eligible for free lunch. And it’s the measures also gonna increase wages or provide stipends for those people who served school meals.

[00:07:44] Now, Jared, I can remember who served the meals in my high school cafeteria. I don’t know if you can, but talking to those Who fed us every day and we’re really important peoples in our lives. And I think we so often don’t give those folks recognition, so I’m glad to hear about that passing.

[00:07:58] Another state [00:08:00] initiative to know about is voters in California approved ballot measure to allocate 1% of state and local revenues with additional funding for districts that have economically disadvantaged students. And that’s gonna go to arts and music education in public schools. So that’s um, a good one and it’s going to.

[00:08:17] Cost an additional 800 million to about 1 billion annually. They say one that’s not actually in this article, but I will say we’ve talked about on this before is there was a millionaire’s tax up for, so we called it up , on the ballot here in Massachusetts, and that was passed. So that means that folks making over a million dollars or proportion of whatever they make, over a million dollars will be taxed.

[00:08:41] And this relates to education because those who were advocating for it, We’re saying that it’s going to be used for education, that this surplus tax is going to be used for education, although a lot on the no side said, we really have no way to guarantee that. So I’m gonna be keeping my eye on how those funds are being used here in Massachusetts.

[00:08:59] We [00:09:00] already have a pretty high per pupil here, and it doesn’t always get spent in the right way, but maybe that’s the. Conservative ed reformer bent in me coming out your art with that comment. So, I know you were also tracking an interesting measure that passed in one of the states. Would you like to tell us about it?

[00:09:15] GR: Absolutely. So this is from the state of New Mexico. And on our show we’ve had conversations, even people on the show to talk about early childhood. There have been debates over whether it should be mandated or not, and if we’re gonna mandate it, should it be for low income students or students placed at risk, or should be based upon zip code.

[00:09:36] New Mexico decided to do something very unique. Not only did the legislature decide to go through its process to bring it to an amendment level, but they put it before the voters. They said, We’re not gonna just simply have the governor or someone here do it, wanna send it to the voters. And so the voters by over 69.

[00:09:55] Supported a measure to basically say we’re going to provide [00:10:00] funding for prenatal to five year old students in the state of New Mexico. Now, according to the new law the money’s coming from a trust fund that was created in the early part of the 20th century. There would been debates over whether or not we should go into that and what, how much should we take?

[00:10:19] Or right now they’re looking at 5% or what would that mean? This year, roughly 140 million will be invested into early childhood education in New Mexico and approximately an additional 90 million into the K-12 system. So this really means three things. One, it’s gonna at least take off the table that there is no money in the coffers to.

[00:10:40] Support pre early childhood learning in New Mexico. That’s number one. Number two, I think it’s a really interesting lesson for other states many of them because of the recent elections we have. One house is blue, one’s red, or one is deep blue, deep red for both. Well, there are times when you simply need.

[00:10:58] To put this before the [00:11:00] people. And so the people have spoken and said, We want this to happen. So it’s another aspect of democracy at work. And third, I think there’s gonna be a wonderful opportunity for researchers in New Mexico those that border the state, but also scholars across the country who want to know how do we make this work.

[00:11:17] You know, I’m fortunate to be on the board of an organization called Transcend. We had one of the co-founders on our show. Jeff Wetzel. Well, Dr. Brewer is one of our board members and he’s one of the country’s top brain scientists. Has a PhD and an md and we recently had a conversation. In fact, he’s been on our show as well.

[00:11:36] The learning curve. But he said something at a recent gathering we had in Northern California. He said, until we as adults, policymakers, teachers, parents, until we as adults decide to become serious about understanding brain science and what it means for young people, we’re gonna keep just pitter patting along toward progress.

[00:11:57] Well, here’s an opportunity. We’ve taken money [00:12:00] off the. The people have had a chance to speak. Yes, there are people who still debate the nuance or the wisdom in that. There’s one Republican lawmaker who said, When you take 5% out of that trust, that’s 5% that if it stayed in there, would’ve accumulated more money over time.

[00:12:16] And so rather than taking it out annually, guess what? You could have maybe taken it out every decade. But again the vote’s gone a different way. But this will give us an opportunity to look at not only brain, Science, but early childhood learning. And so as someone who comes from California, which is a big voter initiative, a voter ballot driven state, I’ve seen how that’s worked to some good and some challenge but in the New Mexico to also change the constitution, that’s a key part.

[00:12:42] They change their constitution to say this is a constitutional right for young people. And in an era where we’re. States move toward a constitutional right toward education. In fact, in our last show we talked about what the Supreme Court of North Carolina had to say [00:13:00] about its education statute, well, actually its constitution language.

[00:13:04] Interesting times. What are your thoughts?

[00:13:07] Cara: I mean, early childhood education, I, there’s a part of me that thinks, you know, You got there no matter how you get there, you got there because this is something we, listen, anybody who has a child has ever gone to school themselves, studies these issues know that high quality early child education matters and you know, whether it’s at the federal level, which I don’t think is probably the right place for it, but some states have gotten their act together on this and others.

[00:13:40] Just continue to talk about it. And New Mexico got it done. One way or another, they got it done. I have to say it was heartened to learn that a lot of this money is going to go towards not only increasing the salaries of early childhood workers, and that’s just not right in the public schools.

[00:13:55] We’re talking about people in daycare settings, people in. the places that [00:14:00] parents actually use, because the majority of children in this country aren’t in publicly provided early childhood education centers or preschool or anything like that. It’s gonna go to raising those salaries, which to my mind, Gerard is really important because we know we can talk about shortages, but like, it’s just not an attractive.

[00:14:16] Profession because most people can’t make a living wage. So I think that this holds a lot of promise for New Mexico and I would bet that we’re gonna be talking a lot about this in the next 10 years and, we might see other states follow. So it’s fascinating stuff. Thank you for that story. Gerard.

[00:14:33] I’m really excited for our next guest. She has co-hosted this show. We talked about her last time because she’s just, Am I allowed to say kick ass? Can I say that? She’s a kick ass woman. I think that this is Somebody who it’s, it’s timely. We’re really lucky that we got her on today. But we are gonna be speaking with Alisha Thomas Searcy.

[00:14:53] She was the 2022 Democratic Party nominee for Georgia State School Superintendent. And she’s gonna [00:15:00] tell us all about Gerard, what it’s like to go against your party. On education and stand by your principles and what that means. But I gotta tell you, I have a lot of, a lot of respect for this woman.

[00:15:12] So we will be back with Alicia Thomas Seai right after this.[00:16:00]

[00:16:00] Learning curve listeners, I said it once and I’m gonna say it again. We’re really excited to have Alisha Thomas Searcy with us. She was the 2022 Democratic nominee for Georgia State School Superintendent. She is a former. Six term state legislator in Georgia. Alicia was the co-author of the State’s Constitutional Amendment to create a state charter authorizer and author of the state’s Interdistrict Transfer Law.

[00:16:23] She is former superintendent of Ivy Prep schools in Atlanta. Alicia is currently a speaker, author. CEO and host of a podcast that I listen to, Fearless Chi. It is a podcast for women. Alisha, welcome to the Learning Curve. Welcome back. I should

[00:16:37] Alisha: say thank you. Thank you. Glad to be

[00:16:39] Cara: here. Yeah, missing, from that bio is occasional co-host of the learning curve as well.

[00:16:44] So , we were talking about you just last week. And I talk to us because it sounds like, it was pretty close. You rigged in a lot of votes for Georgia State School superintendent from what I hear. Talk to us [00:17:00] about, that journey, like how you got there how you got from.

[00:17:05] Ivy Prep and, and Congress being a state legislator to this run for superintendent. Sure.

[00:17:12] Alisha: Well, the number is a little over 1.7 million votes to be exact. And uh, that felt good for a lot of reasons. So going back, you know, a few years I left the legislature in 2014, ran for state school superintendent.

[00:17:28] And believed at the time that I was ready but did not win, and went back to school. Got a master’s degree in education leadership. I also went through Broad Superintendent’s Academy as well as a future chiefs program, and then became a superintendent and what an important opportunity that was for me.

[00:17:48] I remember sitting in my office one day grappling with a number of the issues facing the schools, and realized then that I wasn’t actually ready to be state school superintendent because I needed to have that experience [00:18:00] as a systems leader. And so we did really good work that I’m very proud of when I was superintendent at Ivy Prep.

[00:18:06] And then frankly, because of my 2014 run being labeled the charter girl, if you will, and not able to talk about, I think the issues that really mattered. I wanted nothing to do with politics. So had spent the last eight years. Not doing politics. You know, I voted, but that was pretty much it.

[00:18:24] But when this opportunity came about again my husband and I talked about the fact that this is really the one job that I really want. It’s the way that I wanna make an impact in public education on a much larger scale. And so I was crazy enough to jump in. The last day of qualifying, qualifying ended at 12 o’clock that day.

[00:18:43] I was sitting at the table at 11. Signing all the papers and so it wasn’t exactly, you know, what we planned, but I’m so glad that I ran. It was so important for me to raise the number of issues that, are affecting public schools in Georgia [00:19:00] School. Safety, of course, was number one, teacher burnout and then reimagining public education, and I ran against an eight year I.

[00:19:08] who frankly has been asleep at the wheel for eight years. And while we fell short of winning the race, I have no doubt that he now has a greater sense of urgency to focus on those issues because I remember very distinctly in June, it was right after the primary, which by the way, I won all 159 counties in my primary, So I’m very proud.

[00:19:30] Congratulations. Um, Thank you. But I remember in June we were at the same event and listening to him talk about his platform or the lack thereof and really being astounded by the fact that he just wasn’t focused on issues that were pressing for parents like me. And now when I think about the last, few weeks listening to him talk about teacher burnout and school safety, I realize that again, that all that we did not win.

[00:19:57] Getting this guy to, wake up and focus [00:20:00] on the issues that matter to kids and educators. That was important. So I’m, I’m proud of the race that we ran. Very unhappy that we didn’t win, but Such as life,

[00:20:10] Cara: you wouldn’t be a competitor if you weren’t unhappy, right? I mean, there’s a lot of votes to get that is very, very competitive race.

[00:20:17] So, as we talked just a little bit about your race last week, one of the things that I said is like, I just love this because here you are running for the Georgia Democratic Party, but remaining absolutely true to who you are and what you believe. For kids, which unfortunately I think is just really rare in this day and age.

[00:20:36] And I am proud to say that, you have come on our podcast and have been an occasional cohost because I just think that there are too few people, let alone politicians that are able to, you know, sort of stand up and say, No, I can hold two things in my head at the same time. So I want to talk to you a little bit about.

[00:20:54] your status within the Georgia Democratic Party and your relationship with the major stakeholders in [00:21:00] education, including, I’m sure the union and then you are at the same time coming out and saying, No, actually I do support charter schools. I do support different forms of school choice. And by the way, accountability is important too.

[00:21:11] All of these things that aren’t traditionally we’re at one time more associated with the Democratic Party. Some of them, but aren’t traditionally anymore associated with Democrats. Can you talk a little bit about. .

[00:21:21] Alisha: Yeah, it made it very fun to be running against the Democratic establishment as the Democratic nominee.

[00:21:28] And then have the teachers union support one Republican. They supported all the other Democrats on the ticket with me but then they supported my opponent. So it was quite fun to have two opponents essentially. But to your point, I am who I am and I think one of the reasons why I have peace about not winning this race is I was myself the entire time.

[00:21:53] And I think the way you win 159 counties in Georgia is being [00:22:00] yourself and allowing people to see your heart. And that’s what I did. It made it more challenging, of course, from a fundraising standpoint, from the political support standpoint. I wrote about this, on Facebook and so it’s not private information, but Stacey Abrams was at the top of our ticket and she openly would exclude me from events, from flyers.

[00:22:24] obviously that was very hurtful. . But I was also okay with that because I really believe in my heart that education should be nonpartisan. And if nothing else, it should at least be bipartisan. So I was okay with not having to have the Democratic label. I just wanted to focus on kids. was it a slap in the face?

[00:22:44] I think that the teacher’s union did not support me when I was in the legislature. I actually had a very strong relationship with the union. I had a very strong voting record, you know, based on the issues at the time. And yeah, my support for School Choice isn’t very [00:23:00] popular among Democratic circles, but it’s very popular among parents.

[00:23:04] Yep. Understand that we want options, whether it’s public or private for our kids. And to your point, I am unapologetic about that. Not only do I believe it in my heart, it’s certainly a lot of what I’ve done legislatively, but we also know that the polling and the research. Is abundantly clear. And so I knew that I was right on this issue in my heart but also the science was on my side.

[00:23:27] And so I just think, I believe it. The way we change politics, the way we change the game is when we have people who are authentically themselves. And I wanted people to vote for me for what I believe in, my platform, the other pieces of public education that I wanted to focus on, not because I was playing a political.

[00:23:47] Amazing. It makes me

[00:23:48] Cara: think of you a candidate here, Andrea Campbell, who ran for the mayor of the city of Boston. And came out in support of charter school. She was just steadfastly said, No, I, I think they work and that is probably like, I mean, [00:24:00] in, in the city of Boston that’s just unheard of, let’s say.

[00:24:02] And she was just elected attorney general. So I think people who stick by principals in the end, in the end will, see what they want come to fruition. I have just one more question before I let my fearless cohost, Gerard and your friend uh, step in here. Talk to me a little bit about the business community in their level of support for some of the more, we’ll call them controversial school reforms that you have expressed support for.

[00:24:26] Are they committed to driving reform in K to 12 education? Because usually they can be a real integral part of affecting. , I’m

[00:24:34] Alisha: sad to say that the business community in Georgia is very silent on ed reform issues. they probably could have made a difference in this election because if you talk to them privately many of them will talk about, the lack of vision lack of sense of urgency, but that didn’t really wield any political power or.

[00:24:57] They were very silent. I would argue they were silent on most [00:25:00] races, even at the top of the ticket. So it’s kind of disappointing and I think, again, if we’re gonna turn this and make education more about kids and not so much about political party, I think the business community has a real critical role to play in that.

[00:25:14] So I want them to, step up to the plate a little bit more.

[00:25:17] Cara: Well, hopefully they’re listening. Gerard, over to you, my friend, .

[00:25:21] GR: Well, first of all, Alicia, good to hear your voice. Let me say as your friend, as your brother, as your c. Very proud of the principal stance that you took running for office. People have no idea how tough it is to go to a hundred plus, places across time and talk about education in parts of the state where people think, ah, maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.

[00:25:44] And you just did it steadfastly with good intellect and grace. So I wanna just say that out for

[00:25:49] Alisha: thank you and thanks for having my back the entire time. No problem,

[00:25:54] GR: Georgia. Is on my mind, you know, song , from Ray Charles, and [00:26:00] a lot of people were looking in Georgia. For Stacy, but there were also people around the country looking at education because of Alicia.

[00:26:08] There are two people, one of them is former US Secretary of Education Rod Page who was Secretary under George W. Bush. And then you had Secretary Arnie Duncan, who was secretary under President Obama. Both of them had served as superintendents well already being the CEO as you, and they decided to come.

[00:26:29] Republican and Democrat to support your candidacy and to also use a live platform to talk about the importance of education and what it means only for Georgia, but for the country. Talk to us about what that type of conversation meant in terms of the bigger picture of education reform and then what it meant for you in terms of the good and even some of the challenges with fundraising.

[00:26:51] Alisha: Sure. that event itself I described in that moment is like, Elton John meets Beyonce for me. Right?[00:27:00] So imagine that you have the opportunity to meet either one of them and you have backstage passes. So for those of us in education, I’m an education nerd. Here are two people that have had, I think, the most significant impact on public education during their tenures.

[00:27:16] Both of them I have great respect for and have learned a lot. So having them together was huge for me. Frankly, I don’t think it was appreciated as much within Georgia as I would’ve wanted it to be, because I think we’re so polarized, in this moment, certainly in Georgia and across the country.

[00:27:34] But for me it was about modeling what could be, what should be when it comes to reforming public education. And one of the things that Dr. Page said as we were discussing putting this event together, he said, The only way I will do this is if we’re having conversations about being bipartisan. both of them also talked about how difficult the times are now, even more than when they [00:28:00] were in their seats to work in a bipartisan way.

[00:28:03] And so I think it meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to other people who understand the significance of it. I think it helped to bring some national attention to the race, which was also very important, right? When you talk about these bottom of the ticket races, which I even, I hate the terms. Folks aren’t paying attention to this issue and , to this race.

[00:28:22] In fact, there was an article that was written maybe the last week or two of the election and exactly what you just said. They were focused on the gubernatorial candidates. Education was an issue for them. And then our race, I’d never seen, you know, our race talked about in the same article as the gubernatorial races.

[00:28:40] So this was an opportunity for us to really highlight some of these critical issues in public education. But I will say in terms of fundraising, it’s so funny. I’ve heard everywhere from 80 million, you know, somewhere around there between all the organizations. Abrams was connected to [00:29:00] either her campaign itself or one Georgia, or the new Georgia project, but millions and millions of dollars.

[00:29:07] I out raised my opponent in the primary and in the general and I never hit 300,000. So that ought to tell you a whole lot about how much attention people pay to these. How difficult it is to fundraise. I mean, it was like pulling teeth because people just aren’t, It’s, I guess it’s not as exciting.

[00:29:30] I don’t know what it is, but it was very challenging to raise money and so I’m again very proud to have been able to out raise my opponent. But it was hard and I think we’ve gotta really understand that if we wanna see good people in office, I think there are only 19 states in our country that elect the state school superintendent.

[00:29:49] We’ve gotta learn how to plan these races as well.

[00:29:52] GR: I’m so glad you mentioned the fact that you are one of the few states where the state chief is elected, [00:30:00] and so when times move as we move forward with this, that’s something to remember 300,000 and yet, The leader of the ticket, millions and millions of dollars, including free time on national and local television and, other shows.

[00:30:14] It’s just amazing. Before I go to the next question, I will not ask you if Paige or Arnie was Beyonce. We’ll leave that one alone. So, Let’s stick to a part that you mentioned in terms of teacher unions. Now there are many black, white, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and multiracial democrats who sports school reform and who fact receive a lot of pushback from teacher unions.

[00:30:41] I think we’re gonna see a new wave of candidates for office at the state, at the school board level in part based upon. The politics have taken place at the national level, but there are people like you, a young Alicia, a young Allen who’s gonna run for office local or go straight to state Chief. What [00:31:00] advice do you give to upcoming Democrats as it relates to a school reform, a school reform agenda in the face of union politics?

[00:31:09] And sadly, in your case, the top of your party giving you

[00:31:13] Alisha: the he.

[00:31:14] I believe very strongly that we need to operate from values. You know, I’m a Democrat even though there are times that I didn’t feel welcomed by my party during this race. And again, I wanna be clear, it’s the establishment, right? It’s a handful of people who run the party or who run the democratic.

[00:31:33] Politics, the strategy. When you win a hun, all 159 counties in a primary, clearly the party is with you, right? And so I like to make that distinction. But certainly during this race, if I feel like I’ve got two opponents and one of them is my own party establishment, that’s a real problem. And so I think it’s important to, be clear about the values.

[00:31:55] I’m a democrat because I believe in leveling the playing field. I believe that education [00:32:00] is the great equal. And so where those values can come together, whether it’s working with the teacher’s union, you know, I want to work with the teacher’s union in places where I can, where we’re going to disagree, we’re gonna disagree and I’m okay with that.

[00:32:15] And so I think you’ve gotta operate from those values. You’ve gotta operate from. Trying to build relationships where you can. I think you raised a great point about the role of teachers unions in this country right now. What I also heard from a lot of my friends who are teachers, they didn’t care anything about g endorsing my opponent.

[00:32:36] They know me. They knew that, aside from a couple of gimmicks, you know, of giving teachers, , $2,000 bonus, right as the election was coming, was just that it was an election day gimmick. But when you look at, the actual work of this state superintendent, it wasn’t there. And so what I often said, and, sometimes it’s controversial to say, but I believe it, I think it’s a slap in the face that [00:33:00] as a teacher’s union, you.

[00:33:02] Purporting to advocate for the values for the needs of teachers and other educators, but then you are making political decisions that are against their best interests. And I’m looking forward to teachers paying more attention to what teachers unions are doing and saying teachers should not have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

[00:33:26] And part of those dollars are going to teachers unions who are not advocating for their best. And somebody ought to stand up and say that. And so that’s something that I said on the campaign trail. Again, it wasn’t popular, but we’ve gotta tell the truth about what’s happening here because if teachers don’t have the resources they need to be successful, education is not going to work.

[00:33:46] And so my advice is, you operate from those values, you build relationships where you can. But I also believe very strongly that if enough, Who want to do things differently, operate authentically, [00:34:00] operate from our values than we’ll be able to see change. It may sound, too overly optimistic, but I just believe that’s possible.

[00:34:08] You were

[00:34:09] GR: steadfast in keeping teachers at the top of your policy agenda and you didn’t do it , solely because it was covid or post covid period. And that’s the thing you had to say. I saw you do it when you were in the legislature. When you take a look at the next decade for your state, and Georgia in many ways has been a for the country.

[00:34:28] What are your thoughts about education and reform moving forward?

[00:34:33] Alisha: I think a lot is going to need to happen in order for a reform agenda to hap to take place. And what I mean by that is if we don’t depoliticize education, we’re gonna keep getting the same thing we’ve been getting. And here’s my frustration.

[00:34:52] I am a black female democrat who ran for state school, superintendent in the South as a reformer [00:35:00] and school choice supporter to me doing this work nationally. And you do it even more so than I. There was not a more attractive candidate for those of us who wanna see change in our system, but those who were more likely to support that change, ie.

[00:35:18] Republican. Voted for the Republican who’s done nothing for eight years, who’s not a reformer, who’s supported by the teacher’s union. There’s a lot wrong with that picture. And so there’s a, a need, a call to action or Republicans in particular to say, What do you really want when it comes to public education?

[00:35:38] If it’s not what the teacher’s union agenda is, if it’s not the status quo, then you’re going to need to support candidates who really have a reform agenda regardless of their political party. And if you’re not willing to put party aside, even if it’s just for that race, we’re never going to see the kinds of reforms that our kids desperately need.

[00:35:57] I also think you’ve gotta [00:36:00] figure out how to get parents more engaged and to prioritize. Public education as their issue. All the polling going into this election I think Murmuration was one of the groups that did some polling that said, for the first time in 10 or 20 years, education was in the top three issues.

[00:36:17] But when you look at the exit polling, now, education doesn’t even show up in the top 10, or at least top six or seven. Yes, it’s the economy, , it’s abortion, it’s all these other things. So it’s frustrating, frankly, as a parent and as an educator, that we don’t have this sense of urgency, that education isn’t one of the top three issues in this country for voters, for families.

[00:36:40] And so we’ve gotta fix that. And I think it’s, the work of advocacy groups of funders of those of us who care about reform and know that we drastically need change in our schools, that we have to change the environment that we’re working in. And we’ve gotta wake people up because if we don’t, we’re gonna see the same thing for [00:37:00] four, for eight, for 12 more years, regardless of who the state school superintendents are, because there’s just not that sense of urgency that we need.

[00:37:08] I think if we did have. , then we’ll have more conversations about what options look like, right? Because look what Covid did for us. It taught us that kids can be flexible. That when you provide support for teachers, that they can be more innovative and they can operate on a number of different.

[00:37:25] Platforms we learned that we should probably test different and use those results differently. We learned a whole lot of things, and so going back to education as usual prior to covid would be the worst mistake, but we gotta have that sense of urgency. We’ve gotta decide that education is not this political issue and we’re not gonna hide behind the political party or even race for that matter when the education of our kids is at.

[00:37:51] GR: Thank you so much. the, the point when you mentioned about being a black woman in the South, you know what’s so interesting about the Georgia [00:38:00] narrative is you had a black woman running for governor. You’ve got two black men running for US Senate, a black woman, you running for state superintendent of public education, you Spelman.

[00:38:15] She as well. I mean there, there’s so many stories in there and so it’s somewhat odd that when people say We have an opportunity to make history, they had an opportunity to make history with you. There’s been women who’ve been, say superintendent of education in Georgia, None have been black. There have been at least five black men elected statewide in.

[00:38:36] Yet we haven’t elected a black woman statewide. Two opportunities for Stacy, at least on this time. We can’t say was voter suppression, but here was an opportunity to set history and you were right there. So that is just an opening for us to set history later. But thank you so much for giving us some time as you’re closing out your campaign.

[00:38:55] Again, congratulations. Also, congratulations to your husband and family. People have no idea the sacrifices and [00:39:00] investments. Yes, Dr. Me, but also to your staff and to your voters, Democrat, republican, independent, libertarian, and people across ethnic, racial, and other lines who came out to support you care.

[00:39:11] And I are always glad to have you a part of our conversation and we look forward to supporting you in your next endeavor.

[00:39:16] Alisha: Thank you. I appreciate you saying that, and I will take this moment to say thanks, because there were lots of Republicans who were openly supportive and that was a big deal. And I’m proud of the very bipartisan coalition that we brought together.

[00:39:30] And I’m still hopeful. I still have hope that to your point, that we’ll be able to make history at some other point. We’ve got a lot of work to do in our state and in our country, but I know it can be done on behalf of kids. So thank you both for having me.

[00:39:44] GR: Thank you. Take. You too.[00:40:00] [00:41:00]

[00:41:44] Cara: Wow. Gerard What an interview. We’re gonna end with the tweet of the week. This one from Lauren Camera. It’s a retweet from Asero Small on the 14th of November, and it says, 10 states provided me with data on enrollment at their virtual schools. [00:42:00] The trend, even as campuses reopened and mask mandates fell student enrollment.

[00:42:05] At standalone remote academies kept climbing. Whether that’s a boon or a crisis, depends on who you ask. I gotta say Gerard, I think it’s a boon and part of the reason I think it’s a boon is because I think you look around and there are a lot of really cool education entrepreneurs getting into this space and making virtual education something that was once really frowned upon an increasingly attractive option for so, so many kids.

[00:42:32] Gerard, I am thinking of you. I think we all are. You are. You and your community are in our thoughts and. We will be back listeners next week we will be speaking with Nathaniel Philbrick. He’s an American historian winner of the National Book Award, finalist for the Pulitzer and author of Mayflower Voyage Community War.

[00:42:54] Appropriate for this pre Thanksgiving learning curve session. Gerard, [00:43:00] until next time, please take care and I look forward to speaking with you next week.

[00:43:06] GR: Ditto, take care.[00:44:00]

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