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Our pick for school superintendent: Joe Martin

Longtime education advocate has the smarts -- and heart -- to help Georgia's woeful schools

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WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Georgia ranks, what, 48th nationally in SAT scores? Is that reason enough for you?

THE LOWDOWN: First off, it's Jim Martin, Joe's younger brother, who ran against Saxby Chambliss two years ago. (Another brother, Jack, is a top Atlanta defense attorney.) Joe Martin, on the other hand, is easily one of the most qualified educational policy experts in the state. He served on the Atlanta school board for 20 years and has been appointed by various governors to three state commissions on education, including the one that helped author Georgia's Quality Basic Education Act.

For the past few years, Martin headed the Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia, a nonprofit supported by local school systems across Georgia that fought a legal battle against the state for not meeting the funding requirements mandated by QBE.

That kind of advocacy for public education is needed after Superintendent Kathy Cox sat by quietly for years as Gov. Sonny Perdue and her fellow Republicans in the Legislature slashed state school funding, shortened the school year and furloughed teachers. In their zeal to legalize school vouchers, GOP lawmakers have shown increasing hostility toward the public schools that educate more than 90 percent of Georgia's children, a trend that has undercut education in Georgia and demoralized teachers. Martin hopes to reverse that trend.

But Martin, who has a Harvard MBA, is not simply a policy wonk. He also has business, management and executive experience, having headed the development firm that built Underground Atlanta, as well as Central Atlanta Progress.

Needless to say, Martin has been endorsed by the Georgia Association of Educators.

THE OUTLOOK: If Republican challenger John Barge — who Perdue didn't deem qualified to serve out the rest of Cox's term after she resigned — didn't have an "R" behind his name, this wouldn't be a contest. It shouldn't be one, anyway.

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