Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter made a stop in Tifton Thursday, speaking at the Tifton Kiwanis Club meeting. Carter, 38, is the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter and is running against Republican incumbent Nathan Deal.
Carter, a graduate of Duke University, attended law school at the University of Georgia, and is currently serving as a member of the Georgia Senate.
Carter spent the morning speaking with students and faculty at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and with Tift County Schools Superintendent Patrick Atwater, before attending the club meeting.
"I believe we have an opportunity to make a real difference in our state," Carter told club members and guests. "My grandfather was governor and then president, so I know what kind of impact folks in South Georgia can have."
Carter spoke on the issues with education in the state, commenting that "we're not preparing our folks for the prosperity I think they deserve."
"Over the last three, four, five years, we've seen the greatest contraction in the history of public education in Georgia. As a state, we have 9,000 fewer teachers in our classrooms than we did five years ago. Two-thirds of our school systems have cut instructional days," he said.
Carter spoke about the losses in the HOPE scholarship program, giving the example that it only pays 64 percent of the cost of going to school at ABAC, and the rest of that cost often falls on the shoulders of students as they prepare to graduate, not just at ABAC, but at schools all over the state.
"They're coming out with more debt. When I took office, there were 250,000 HOPE recipients. Today there are only 150,000," he said.
Carter said he feels that as a state, we must do more to invest in our people and provide opportunities for them.
"If you give folks opportunities, they're going to take them and go and do something. They will build businesses, they'll generate jobs, they're going to be there to take care of our kids and grandkids. I don't want my kids, who are five and seven, to have to move away to get a better job. I don't want them to have to go to a museum to see what it was like to live in rural Georgia," he said.
Carter said he feels the best thing that can be done in Atlanta is to prioritize the education budget, and he recommends separating that budget out.
"If we present a separate education budget and say we will make sure we give our school kids what the need, we can provide honesty and transparency with respect to that budget, and we can then demand out of it what we need," he said.
Carter recalled that his grandfather lives his life "as a Christian, as best he can, every single day."
"That heritage, that integrity, that honesty that goes along with the upbringing that I know most of us share, is something that I think we could use a bit more of at the state capitol," he said. "I will be out there working hard for you, for rural Georgia, for South Georgia, and for regular, everyday people that have been forgotten for too long by their state government."
To contact editor Angye Morrison, call 382-4321.