Send Georgia Republicans a message in support of school choice

Opposing school choice is lud- ... er ... just silly. (AJC Photo / Taylor Carpenter)

Gov. Deal and Ludacris know opposing school choice is ludi- … er … just silly. (AJC Photo / Taylor Carpenter)

Let’s say you’re a Republican voter in Georgia. If you’re like those polled recently by the AJC, you probably think Gov. Nathan Deal and state legislators are doing a good job. You also most likely think Deal was wrong to veto the religious-liberty and campus-carry bills, and that legislators ought to pass each again.

But the governor won’t be on your primary ballot Tuesday, and three in four incumbent GOP legislators face no primary opposition. Nor will your ballot ask you about religious liberty or campus carry. That doesn’t mean you can’t send all of them a message about holding true to a principle they often espouse but hardly ever act on.

There is one question on GOP primary ballots this year: “Should Georgia empower parents with the right to use the tax dollars allocated for the education of their children, allowing them the freedom to choose among public, private, virtual and home schools?”

Republicans have been talking about “empowering parents” and being “free to choose” since Milton Friedman literally wrote the book on injecting competition into public education. But only rarely have they put those words into action, and Georgia has been falling behind.

A comparison to Florida is instructive. Both states have vouchers for students with disabilities, with similar eligibility rates (13 percent of students in Florida, 11 percent in Georgia). Yet Florida students eligible for the voucher are four times as likely as their Georgia counterparts to enroll in the program.

Or consider tax-credit scholarship programs. While Georgia’s cap remains stuck at $58 million, even though the cap is now met on the first day of each year, Florida’s is now almost $450 million and will grow to $559 million for the school year starting this fall; the growth alone is almost double what Georgia allows annually. Lawmakers in Florida have done that even though the scholarships are worth an average of almost $2,000 a year more than Georgia’s, perhaps because they realize that’s still far cheaper than educating those children in public schools. Eligible students in Florida are 13 times more likely to enroll than those in Georgia.

Then there are the choice programs Georgia doesn’t even have. Eight states, including Alabama and South Carolina, allow some kind of income-tax deduction or credit for expenses such as private-school tuition. The eight include some states known for their good public schools: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin. In other words, this isn’t about bashing public schools.

Of course, that’s exactly how it is portrayed by choice opponents and education status quoists. They refuse to see, or maybe just to acknowledge, that allowing competition tends to improve all: the innovators, the entrenched incumbents, teachers and other employees — and above all, students.

Politicians may be known for watching opinion polls, but what they really fear is the ballot box. Georgia Republicans have demonstrated that before. Although polls had long indicated public support for ethics reform, it was a 2012 ballot question about limiting lobbyists’ gifts to legislators — backed by 87 percent of primary voters that year — that spurred a 2013 law to do just that.

I’d say it’s time for another message from the voters.

Reader Comments 0

53 comments
Legong
Legong

Rent the film Waiting for Superman to learn much of why tuition vouchers make perfect sense.

And why the $14,500 currently squandered yearly on each Atlanta public school child could be better spent elsewhere.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

$3000 is more than enough to supply a motivated student student with an adequate online curriculum and education. Give $3K to students who choose to do without public school. Require students to take state proctored ITBS yearly in K-8 and ACT in 9-12 to provide accountability to taxpayers.

Starik
Starik

We could do popular initiatives like California... let the people vote, directly. 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

I'll vote in favor of progress even though Deal disappointed with his cowardly recent vetoes of unrelated matters.

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

Send them a message that Jaysus rode the dinosaur 6,000 years ago when King James english was good enuff fer the Bible. yeehaw hold my beer n watch this....

Send them a message that THAT's how we prepare Jawga's workforce for those 21st century jerb creaters that are surely, surely coming here now that we have that, with a Kansas mir-ackle on top of it. Git out the banjos! Hide the goats!

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Home schoolers should get into a good home college and after graduation,  find a good job and work at home.... another comedian...

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

Homeschooled children are among the brightest I have been around. Most are very well rounded.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@concernedoldtimer

There is a bit of self-selection going on with homeschooling, of course.  Homeschooled kids have parents, usually two of them, and they care.

Values that Democrats take such glee in demeaning and undermining.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@concernedoldtimer Homeschooled children are among the brightest I have been around. Most are very well rounded.


Untrue. The ones I have met are decidedly NOT well rounded.


That is what you get when you stay inside a bubble.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Well said Kyle, but not sure anything will get through to these knucklehead legislators whose primary concern is getting re-elected.  Obviously, politics beats working for a living.  Apparently someone teaches them on the first day that if you wish to be a long term legislator, you need to never do anything bold.  Keep your head down, pander to your constituents, and do small things for a long term political career.  They seem to take that to heart and spend their time tinkering around the edges and making minor changes to programs that affect only a few, usually their donors.


How do we send a message to them to take up tax reform for the first time in decades. If they ever do, one thing they definitely need to look at to be fair, is to create a tax deduction for folks who elect to save the state money by educating their kids by home schooling and private schools.  As you point out the state benefits by these decisions, so they should rebate some of those savings.   The rest of the suggestions would help as well, to improve Georgia's ever sinking academic performance.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 Or consider tax-credit scholarship programs.


A huge scam. As has been documented by the NYT


“A very small percentage of that money will be set aside for a needs-based scholarship fund,” Wyatt Bozeman, an administrator at the school near Atlanta, said during an informational session. “The rest of the money will be channeled to the family that raised it.”


A handout circulated at the meeting instructed families to donate, qualify for a tax credit and then apply for a scholarship for their own children, many of whom were already attending the school.


Shameful. I cant think of anything worse than taking money away from poor kids going to school and funneling it to rich kids who dont need it. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar I see you no longer put the date or a link to that article which has been made moot by subsequent legislation and is undermined by the data we have.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 “Should Georgia empower parents with the right to use the tax dollars allocated for the education of their children, allowing them the freedom to choose among public, private, virtual and home schools?”


Wow,  what a loaded question. 

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

Why are the parents the only ones "empowered" here? If it's such a good idea extend it to all taxpayers, who could choose to direct their tax dollars to an educational institution of their choice. 


Instead we get taxed and have no say over how our tax dollars are spent.

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

@Kyle_Wingfield And I would bet anyone who took the steps to specifically select a school would make things better too.

Dividing people into "all knowing parents" and "the deep pockets for those all knowing parents" does not seem warranted. Either people are qualified to choose schools or they aren't.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Aquagirl Do "all taxpayers" have specific knowledge about what might work better for individual children?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Aquagirl I'm not really sure what you mean by that division, but this isn't about being qualified. I'm simply acknowledging some people would make the wrong choice.

If we're going to avoid programs because of that possibility, then government is going to become really, really limited very, very soon ...

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

@Kyle_Wingfield No, I didn't imply that at all. What I did imply is that there is no special mommy/daddy magic that means parents would make the right choice any more than non-parents. 


Let me put it another way: I pay school taxes even though I have no children currently in school. Do you agree I should pay those taxes?


If you don't, we have no further argument. But if you do, it's an implicit recognition that I have a stake in the education of other people's children. As long as I have that stake, I should have a voice in how that money is spent.


This is not rocket science, Kyle. And I'm not sure why you're so wedded to this idea of taxation without representation.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Aquagirl @Kyle_Wingfield

Your stake is secondary at best, and individual parents have more at stake and are in a better decision to exercise choice.

And we'll buy into your rejection of taxation without representation when taxpayers get to decide whether or not to fund the individual choice to kill their unborn child.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Aquagirl Do you want your money back for veterans' care provided by private doctors because the VA couldn't handle the need? For Section 8 housing vouchers used for private apartments instead of government housing projects? For all public functions contracted out to private operators for whatever reason? For your state dollars spent in a public school system outside your own district, meaning you don't get to vote for its school board? Are those "taxation without representation" as well? 

The notion that we are talking about something novel with allowing public education funds to be spent outside the government-run school system requires one to ignore all those other examples. In each case, they represent a realization by government that it can't actually provide everything for everyone, even if it is paying for the services in question. The better question is why students aren't afforded the same options that all these other recipients of public funds already have.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Aquagirl Some might get it wrong, but I'd like the chances of things being better on the whole.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Aquagirl However, implied in what I take to be your line of thought is this: People who know how to choose a school for their kids are also rich enough to pay for it -- and, therefore, those who can't pay for it don't know enough to do it. And I reject that.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @Aquagirl


"The better question is why students aren't afforded the same options that all these other recipients of public funds already have."

Simply because of the amount of the budget that goes to education. The same reason you let your children choose  how to spend the dessert money but not the mortgage money.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

A big FAT NO.   Tax dollars are for public schools,  not for profit.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Jefferson1776 So, no more textbooks (private publishers), buildings (private contractors) or food in the cafeterias (private suppliers), since in each case there's a company that could be making a (insert shudder here) profit!

tomkat1111
tomkat1111

If the state of Georgia were to elect some decent leaders instead of Deal and Perdue, we might not have to send a message.

Starik
Starik

@tomkat1111 Georgia has a startlingly bad record in electing Governors of either party.