Georgia’s Brian Kemp will lead an influential 16-state educational research body

ATLANTA – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has been elected chairman of the influential Southern Regional Education Board, a 16-state body that advises states from Delaware to Texas on policy.

Republican Kemp was elected Sunday to chair the body for the next 12 months. Addressing the group Monday at the group’s annual meeting in Atlanta, he said Georgia and other southern states are “leading the great American comeback” in recovering from missed learning during COVID-19.

The committee, which deals with educational issues, has historically been instrumental in improving education in the South. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice served as chairman from 2022-2023.

Kemp said a key concern for him is making sure schools and colleges are meeting the workforce needs of businesses. He called the current labor shortage “our greatest challenge” in economic development.

“These kids that we’re all educating are critical to our success,” Kemp said.

Other important priorities for him include implementing a new law in Georgia aimed at improving reading instruction in the early elementary grades, figuring out how higher education should deal with a decline in the number of traditional college-age students, and increasing the number of Raise K-12 teachers.

Kemp said he is focused on making sure the state university system and the technical college system aren’t wasting resources competing for students

“Given our realistic view of our enrollment numbers over the next few years, I think you have some really tough decisions to make,” he said.

Kemp also announced initiatives to allow teaching assistants to train to become certified teachers and to allow retirees to return to the classroom without having to forego their pension.

“Certainly, teacher salary is a big part of that, but it’s not everything,” Kemp said. “It’s also just about recognizing and thanking the work of our teachers.”