Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp used the annual State of the State address to lay out a form of his re-election platform. He championed raises for teachers, promised safer urban and rural cities, pledged to ban Critical Race Theory from Georgia’s public schools, and promised tax rebates during his speech.

First, Governor Kemp has laid out a budget of $31.5 billion, which includes a return to fully funded K-12 public schools that suffered cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

$425 million to fully fund our schools and completely restore all austerity cuts to education funding in our state that were made during the pandemic. 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is joined by Lieutenant Governor Georff Duncan, left, and Speaker of the House David Ralston, right, as he delivers the annual State of the State address from the State Capitol on Thursday, January 13, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“This key priority will collectively provide an additional $1.4 billion in direct funding for our K-12 schools and invest more per K-12 student than ever before,” Kemp said. 

Additionally, the extra spending is derived  from the $3.7 billion surplus the state ran in the 2021 budget year. 

Next, Governor Kemp took aim at liberals when he declared he would not allow Critical Race Theory to be taught in schools. Even though it is not actually taught in Georgia’s Public Schools. 

“That’s why I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly this legislative session to protect our students from divisive ideologies — like critical race theory – that pit kids against each other,” Kemp said. “I also look forward to working with the House and Senate to pass, and sign, a parental bill of rights in our education system and other pieces of legislation that I strongly support to ensure fairness in school sports and address obscene materials online and in our school libraries.”

The definition of Critical Race Theory is based on the core idea that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. It is taught in graduate schools and high-level undergraduate programs.

Georgia House Minority Leader, Dr. James Beverly (D-Macon), delivers a portion of the Democratic response after Governor Brian Kemp’s State of the State Address from the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday, January 13, 2022. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

The Democrats seized upon this in their response. House Minority Leader, Dr. James Beverly, D-Macon, said Critical Race Theory is not a religion and it’s being weaponized by the right to distract from the real issues.

“Our Republican colleagues in the state legislature are following right along, with bills that ban books from school libraries and restrict what teachers can discuss in classrooms, all based on deep-seated fears of our past,” Beverly said. “Not to mention the majority’s recently passed map that undermines the representation of Georgia voters everywhere.

For those that will follow along with our legislative session from home, know this: while Republicans continue to propose stunt legislation for a chance to appear on TV, Democrats are the grownups in the room.”

Georgia Senate Minority Leader, Gloria Butler, delivers a portion of the Democratic Response to Governor Brian Kemp’s State of the State Address from the south steps inside the State Capitol on Thursday, January 13, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The

Kemp formally pledged to support constitutional carry. It means if a person can legally possess a handgun, that individual can legally carry that handgun without the need for a license or permit. Kemp, who is shaping up for a protracted primary fight against former U.S. Senator David Perdue, used this speech to establish his agenda for the days and weeks ahead.

“To build a safer, stronger Georgia, we must ensure every Georgian feels safe and secure in their communities,” Kemp said. 

Meanwhile, critics were unmoved.

“Let’s be clear, the State of the State address was yet another reckless political stunt showcasing Gov. Kemp’s disregard for public health, safety or local agency,” political strategist Eleina Raines said. “He has a primary opponent and this speech was nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to win over the far-right Republicans in Georgia. His message today was unmistakably clear, he’s willing to endanger the lives of every Georgian to score political points with extremists.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...