Gov. Nathan Deal’s state of the state speech Wednesday emphasized brightening prospects for the state’s economy, from increasing jobs to rising housing prices.

Deal pointed to his steering Georgia through the worst days of the recession during his first term and looked ahead to new prosperity. “Now our economy is seeing positive growth with thousands of new jobs added every month,” he said. Deal said that since he took office, 319,000 new jobs have been added in the private sector, 93,000 of those in the past 12 months.

He gave special attention to the state’s auto industry, including Mercedes-Benz’s recent announcement it is moving its corporate headquarters to metro Atlanta, Porsche North America’s building its home near the Atlanta airport and the quality of vehicles manufactured at the Kia plant in West Point.

Turning his attention to education reform, Deal said that he is establishing an education reform commission to study a range of issues, including increasing access to early learning programs, recruiting and retaining  high quality teachers and expanding options beyond traditional schools. He said he wanted the panel, composed of legislators, educators and other stakeholders, to make its recommendations by Aug. 1 of this year.

He will also ask the panel to recommend ways to modernize the Quality Basic Education funding formula from the 1980s. “My vision is to create a formula driven by student need that provides local school and district leaders with real control and flexibility. It is our hope that funding changes based on the commission’s recommendations will go into effect as early as the 2016-2017 school year.” One key area is reducing the state’s  high school dropout rate. 

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