One choice bill for education reform

 

Georgia students attend a school choice rally in Atlanta, January 2014. (AJC/Kent D. Johnson)

Georgia students attend a school choice rally in Atlanta, January 2014. (AJC/Kent D. Johnson)

School choice is about giving students a chance to escape bad schools. But it’s not only about that. If it were, the latest champion for the cause probably wouldn’t hail from Forsyth County.

“We have several very highly rated private schools in Forsyth County,” says state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming. “Yet, Forsyth County … is scholastically one of the top-achieving school systems. So why do parents choose to spend money to put them in (private schools)? Because they made the choice. They’re involved in their kids’ education, and they see things that those private schools offer that the public system doesn’t.

Hamilton Mug

“I can say the same thing about home school. I know parents in Forsyth County that home school. Once again, we’ve got one of the finest school systems in the state, in the Southeast, and yet they’ve chosen to home school. So to me (the desire for choice) is not an indication” of whether the schools are good or bad.

Those observations and others helped spur Hamilton to propose a new choice measure called Education Savings Accounts. House Bill 243 would allow a relatively small number of Georgia students to use the state money allotted for their k-12 schooling for a variety of educational uses, such as private school tuition or a home-school curriculum.

While some people have wrongly likened an ESA to a voucher, it’s more akin to a Health Savings Account. Hamilton calls it “a parent-driven, consumer-driven education pathway.”

The precise amount of funding would vary by child and school district, as the bill would use the QBE funding formula to calculate exactly what the state would have spent on that particular student, between $3,500 and $5,000 per child per year.

To allay concerns of a “huge exodus” from public schools, HB 243 would cap usage to 0.5 percent of the total student population (about 8,500 kids) in the first year and 1 percent (about 17,000 kids) thereafter. Experience in other states with ESAs, Arizona and Florida, suggests the number will likely be closer to 1,000, Hamilton says.

In any event, because the accounts would be limited to kids enrolled in public school or entering kindergarten or the first grade, Hamilton says the effect on the state budget should be neutral, and the effect on local school budgets ought to be positive.

“We’re only taking the state portion,” he says. “So (districts) still get their local property-tax portion that they receive, even though that student’s not there, and then they also continue to receive federal dollars.”

The most important thing is to match kids with the schools that best serve their needs. To that end, Hamilton relates a bit of experience with his own, now-grown children.

“I have three children,” he says. “All three of those children are different, and … we as parents made the determinations as to how their education path was going to go. And each one of them had a slightly unique, different combination of public school, private school and private tutoring.

“And that’s all we’re trying to do (with HB 243), is … give parents a pathway that they can do that, and in so doing, have the ability to have some financial assistance.”

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95 comments
trula schock
trula schock

My business partners were requiring a form a few days ago and were told about a great service with a huge forms library . If you want it too , here's http://pdf.ac/3vlQME.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

" the bill would use the QBE funding formula to calculate exactly what the state would have spent on that particular student, between $3,500 and $5,000 per child per year."


Is that the same QBE formula that the state is ignoring and underfunding schools? 

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

As always Mr. Wingfield panders to this choice/voucher/tax credit mantra without understanding that there is little indication that these "choices" lead to significantly better educational outcomes anywhere. They further nibble away at the already reduced funding Georgia has allocated to education over the last decade.


Georgia always ranks near 40th in state educational outcome rankings. Georgia's best results come from our  expensive private schools. Our next best results come from public schools in wealthy communities with great property tax bases. The vast majority of our schools do have that luxury.

75% or so of choice schools perform no better or worse than our average public schools. 25% do better. But so do 25% of  public schools and that is a much larger number of schools than the "choice" over-achievers.

Georgia has demonstrated that it is a state unwilling and unable to create an education system for all Georgia students and Mr. Wingfield's politicized "choice" conversations just add to the noise.







Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Was on the way home from a work road trip yesterday and was listening to NPR


They had some folks giving a speech in DC urging people to go to their congressman and demand more funds for Charter Schools


Since studies show Charter schools perform no better than TPS aren't they just begging for the same funds TPS are ?


So your fine with throwing money at the problem as long as its a Charter / Private /  Christian school ?



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar "Since studies show Charter schools perform no better than TPS aren't they just begging for the same funds TPS are ?"

Since that's not what studies show -- they show markedly better results for poor kids, minority kids and English language-learner kids, a.k.a. the kind of kids you supposedly want to help -- your point is invalid.

Don't Tread
Don't Tread

"While some people have wrongly likened an ESA to a voucher, it’s more akin to a Health Savings Account."


And I'll bet some of those same "your money is my money" liberals would very much like to get their hands on that account.  "You've made enough money", and all that.


The status quo doesn't work and it's time for something better.

JohnBuck2
JohnBuck2

Absolutely not...When you start cherry picking who gets the voucher and who doesn't, it's always the middle class that gets left out.  Enough is enough.  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JohnBuck2 If there are 8,500 ESAs available and 1,000 are expected to take them, who's cherry-picking?

JohnBuck2
JohnBuck2

@Kyle_Wingfield @JohnBuck2 Those observations and others helped spur Hamilton to propose a new choice measure calledEducation Savings AccountsHouse Bill 243 would allow a relatively small number of Georgia students to use the state money allotted for their k-12 schooling for a variety of educational uses, such as private school tuition or a home-school curriculum.


You change "relatively small number of Georgia Students" to "all Georgia students" and you may have something.


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JohnBuck2 That said, I personally would be in favor of granting an ESA to anyone and everyone who qualified.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

The reformers have shown to us that their idea for choice does nothing to improve educational outcomes for the students they profess to care about so much. When we look to Chile to see what happened when the public schools were put into the hands of the privateers it brought chaos and now the newly elected government is having to spend millions, if not billions, to put a public school system back together. Is this the example we want to follow? The only think that those who are pushing the reforms care about, and let's be clear it really isn't the children, it's about weakening and removing the backbone of our democratic society (our public schools) to enrich those who wish to make a buck or two at the expense of our children. Private schools are just that, private. They are not accountable to the tax payer and they shouldn't be. I do not want my tax money going from our public schools, who are accountable and have to be transparent, to a system that does not have to follow the same level of accountability to the public. We know that the schools that tend to fare less well in our public school system are those that serve children in poverty. You cannot educate your way out of poverty. The reformers will not talk about the challenges that the students face on a daily basis due to their living circumstances even when we know by looking at other countries that have successfully implemented wrap-around services to help those students succeed in life even before they have to think about getting an education. Instead, there are many who are happy that Gov Deal failed to provide the safety net that the ACA would have given hundreds of thousands in GA. Isn't it a good thing that our children come to school healthy? They fight to cut food stamps and WIC. Isn't it a good thing that the students come to our school with a full belly and proper clothing for the time of year? Until the reformers show that they care about the WHOLE CHILD and not just the money they will make off their backs should one cent of tax-payers money go to furthering the failed policies the reformers want to push.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@sneakpeakintoeducation So, we should continue to support the unaccountable, failing, one size fits all government schools?  How many more years do we invest in this failed model?


Mr_B
Mr_B

"About 3.90% of families and 5.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.60% of those under age 18 and 10.20% of those age 65 or over."


If you want a good public education system, move to a rich county.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Mr_B A source and some context would be helpful. Otherwise, your quotation doesn't really have any meaning.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

There's nothing more race-conscious than a left-winger.


We are conscious of race and this countries deplorable history of race relations.


You should look in the mirror. Do you think it just a big coincidence that the Conservative Republican party is 90+ percent white ?


I dont. 

JohnBuck2
JohnBuck2

@HeadleyLamar THat's a dangerous precedent.  inferring the Republicans are racist because of the demographic make up.  


Should we expound that theory on income...two parent homes...jail population.  Should we create theories about the people based simply on the percentage of race in those categories?  Of course you wouldn't, you'd attribute the problem to something conservative.  


Funny how liberal logic just works one way.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Every taxpayer has a right to the use of public funding for healthcare and education rich, poor, black, white, religious or not apart from the state limiting their choice and abilities. 

All other common services e.g. governance and infrastructure are best left to the control of the state with little or no choice for citizens to determine individually, other than the vote and ability to move to another state or country.  

MarkVV
MarkVV

There is a fundamental problem with all these efforts to give some tax money to parents for “choice” education. The society recognizes that it is in the society’s interest to educate children, which is why people without children do not object to the education being supported by tax money. But like with other institutions, the money is “given” to the state so that the state provides the education the society as a whole deems necessary (through their representatives and institutions), not to give some of that money away to a fraction of people, who want something else. There is no objection for those parents to have their children educated differently, but then it is their responsibility to pay for it.


Just imagine that we would be dissatisfied with policing by state (and federal) police, and someone established a private police force and wanted part of the money allocated to state security forces to be given to some people who would want to employ that private police force.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV The "education the society as a whole deems necessary" is resulting in 2/3 of this state's third-graders being unable to read on grade level. You may say "fix the public schools," but that's a sadly laughable sentiment for the parent whose child will go through a couple of grade levels -- at least -- of mediocrity -- at best -- while that debate is held. That is still the driving force behind school-choice efforts, although as mentioned in this particular column, it's not the only reason.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV 

That does not address the fundamental problem. Just saying that a state-wide institution people pay taxes for does not work well is not a justification of diverting some of the tax money to a fraction of people. Just like with the example of the police force, which Kyle has ignored.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV 


To paraphrase Kyle’s argument, somebody could say that “fix the police system” is a laughable sentiment for people, who get robbed or attacked while the debate of improving the police performance is held.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV 

Uh, yeah... how long have we "been fixing the public schools"? 


Change is long time over due, a new direction or directions are in great need. School choice is unquestionably one of them.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV 

"But some schools don't work" seems to deflect from the point that we, as a society, find education desirable, therefore, we, as a society, finance it.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV This particular measure addresses a small percentage of the students in bad schools. There are other measures proposed this year, some of which I've written about, that help other students.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Rather, study the Forsyth school system and figure out what it does that is portable to other schools, public and private.



You don't need "no stinking study", just move the Forsyth  parents, their kids, and the Forsyth teachers, to the other school systems and they will do just as well there, as they do in Forsyth.   Learned that from a Cobb School principal whose job was to fill in at different high schools.  He said the only difference in the schools was who teaches there and who attends there.  In other words, good students, good teachers, equal good schools.

straker
straker

Kyle - "spurious attacks"

MHSmith - "your disdain, hooey"


Looks like the best defense is some attempt at an offense.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@straker 

"some attempt" at an offense?



That would be yours, not ours.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Why not give parents tuition vouchers and let them decide the school, public or private, that best meets their child's needs?


Don't Tread
Don't Tread

@EdUktr Well, because that would make school systems controlled by liberals have to compete for students and the money that comes with them, and gosh, we just can't have any of that.

coj
coj

You can sugar coat private schools all you want but the reason that most people want to attend a private school is to segregate themselves from the undesirables. 

TicTacs
TicTacs

Home schoolers can hopefully get into a good home college.


Republicans want others to pay, nothing new.

MANGLER
MANGLER

@Jefferson1776 Home college?  I like that.  I'm sure the University of Phoenix is looking into that.

Squirrel_Whisperer
Squirrel_Whisperer

If students use money from the state budget to attend a private religious school, is that not a conflict of church/state?

AvailableName
AvailableName

“And that’s all we’re trying to do (with HB 243), is … give parents a pathway that they can do that, and in so doing, have the ability to have some financial assistance.”


From reading the piece, the people in his district have exactly that now - thriving public and private systems.  Why mess with it?  Rather, study the Forsyth school system and figure out what it does that is portable to other schools, public and private.  You know, kinda like what charter schools were supposed to do before they became vehicles for cheap private education.

MANGLER
MANGLER

@AvailableName Easy answer. Wealth.  It's that simple.  Families that have more means have more time and ability to lend a helping hand to their children's education.  Even if the parents can't spare the time, they can spare the money for nannies, tutors, books, and food for their kids.  That's why the "best" schools tend to be in the wealthier areas.

AvailableName
AvailableName

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvailableName Of course not, my point was that Forsyth is doing something right, why not find out what it is and duplicate in other systems rather than always looking to spend public money on private schools - Charters, vouchers and now "savings accounts."


If Republican leadership in Georgia wants to kill public education and privatize it, I wish they would execute it now rather than sticking with the death of a thousand cuts method they are using.

AvailableName
AvailableName

@MANGLER @AvailableName If that's the case, the liberal inclination to pour more money into underperforming schools to pay for nannies, tutors and food is the way we should reform our schools?