October 21, 2012

Candidate profiles: Barton won’t compromise

How much is a child’s education worth? For Thomas Barton, it’s “priceless.”

Barton, a Republican, said a second term for him on the Whitfield County Board of Education will “give kids ... the level best in education.” He faces Democrat Nicky Starling on the Nov. 6 ballot for the District 4 seat.

“I’m tired of seeing kids who can’t find a job,” said Barton. “When I graduated in the 1950s, we were talking about walking on the moon and now the world is changing so fast that we have to keep up. I’m thinking, ‘What are our graduates going to be and are they going to be prepared?’ We have to offer the best.”

To get the best, Barton voted in favor of a property tax increase on Sept. 28 that raised the millage rate from 14.756 to 18.756 mills. It’s a vote he stands by.

“We can’t compromise on the children,” said Barton. “The system was going to be broke if we didn’t do this. We have $10 million to prepare for an increasing deficit, but the vote was also needed. I’m confident it was our final and last option.”

The main focus of the board is to “see kids succeed,” said Barton, who believes his “crowning achievement” was breaking a 2-2 tie in a vote that created a new Eastbrook Middle School this year. The school houses close to 650 students and cost $24 million. It is being paid for through an education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST).

Barton also voted for a $800,000 Literacy Collaborative — a program that trains teachers to use intensive techniques to help students develop strong reading and writing skills — that will “be a big help for kids who need it.”

“We are working with Dalton Public Schools to dodge some of the pitfalls they might have seen in their eight years with the program,” said Barton. “Statistics say that if kids are not on reading level by grade three then their success is minimized greatly. This will prevent that.”

Barton said some of his decisions have “received criticism” but he is confident he’s made the process fair for the public.

“When I was on the outside the board didn’t look fair to me,” said Barton. “The majority of the board at that time was not open. I think I have gone a long way in making the process transparent. I tell people what’s going on. I am honest with them. I have four years on my record to show it. I did what I said and said what I did.”

Barton has been a self-described “house husband” since a car accident in 1983 left him with a broken neck. He has two children who attended Whitfield County schools: Kelley, 21, and T.J., 29.

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