Back from the dead: Voucher/education savings account bill

UPDATE: The bill did not pass Thursday in the final frenzied hours of the 2015 Georgia Legislature.

Resurrections can occur during the last days of the Georgia General Assembly, and word tonight is a bad anti-public education bill has found new life.

House Bill 243 – a voucher bill described in the more benign language of “Education Savings Account” – was revived as Senate Bill 116, which was Sen. William Ligon’s Celebrate Freedom Week legislation. (Ligon is the driving force behind dumping Common Core and sanitizing AP U.S. History.)

It's alive and it's coming for your tax dollars. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

It’s alive and it’s coming for your tax dollars. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

The freedom week reference has been stripped from SB 116 and replaced with House Bill 243. An education watcher at the Capitol said, “The bill is not yet on the House Rules calendar, but several supplemental calendars are expected tomorrow.”

If the bill passes the House in its reincarnated state, it returns to the Senate, which didn’t like it the first time around.

There’s a lot not to like.

If parents pull their children out of Georgia public schools, HB 243 gives them the money the state would have spent on their child. For most families, that would mean about $4,000 from the taxpayers of this state.

And what could parents do with that $4,000?

The funds would go into an education savings account parents could tap for anything related to education, books, private schools, homeschooling, music lessons or even college.

As my colleague Jay Bookman noted, “We have schools in this state that haven’t been able to keep their doors open for 180 days a year; we have schools in which band and music programs have had to be slashed to the bone or even eliminated. And we’re going to divert state taxpayer money to finance private piano and violin lessons for private-school students whose parents would be paying for such things anyway?”

Bill sponsor Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said the bill offers parental choice. “We are giving a menu of choices to parents. This is not an anti-public school system bill.”

But Hamilton’s bill is an extension of the fallacious argument that “the money should follow the students because it’s their money.”

It’s not the students’ money. It’s not the parents’ money.

It’s the community’s money. Taxpayers contribute to the common cause of public education because they believe it’s a collective responsibility to educate the next generation for the good of all.

Parents have every right to demand more accountability and choice in the existing public system, but they should not expect the rest of the community to foot the bill for vouchers or violin.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

96 comments
Looking4truth
Looking4truth

I'm glad this bill is dead for this year.  The idea of school choice should be among choosing between 1) Private School, 2) Public School, 3) Homeschool or 4) Online school.  Since all parents in Georgia have these choices anyway, the monies collected by the government should not be dispersed to pay for violin lessons or any other extracurricular activity.  Nor should they go to parents who can pay the private school tuition. 


As for college, let them work and pay their way like I and so many others did. 



AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

"It’s not the students’ money. It’s not the parents’ money.

It’s the community’s money."


And there we have it - the mustard is off the hot dog. Money allocated for students' education is not their money - it belongs to the 'community'.


To be exact, the 'community' in question is the local board of education and its employees.  I.e., 'don't even THINK about taking those dollars out of our pockets to hand to another provider - that money is OURS'.


ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

William Ligon is on the board of directors for Heritage Christian Academy in Brunswick.  I wonder how many state tax dollars that school will receive if this bill passes?

BeenThere
BeenThere

How is this Free Appropriate PUBLIC Education?

Astropig
Astropig

@BeenThere 

There would be no change. This is only for parents that want to take their kids out.You could certainly leave yours the way they are and you wouldn't see a difference-except that the kids that were no longer in the classroom would have their federal money spread among the students that remained.

historydawg
historydawg

@Astropig @BeenThere Come on, Astro. You must be up on the data to argue religiously from your side. The money from all levels is all determined by the number of students. The resources would decrease. We are better when we pool our resources and value the learning of all students.

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg @Astropig @BeenThere


This is a zero sum outcome for schools. No money is created or destroyed. It is simply reallocated by parents instead of bureaucrats or school boards.The child gets educated,the educators get paid. I think that this is a crummy deal because I want all dollars to follow the student,not just state dollars.But this is a great first step, halting as it is.


And again, this is not a voucher plan. Homeschool parents don't take vouchers,music teachers don't take vouchers and colleges sure as heck don't take vouchers.They require m-o-n-e-y . That's the whole concept here-letting parents have the same freedom of choice that school systems have-to spend their money.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @historydawg @BeenThere


School systems really do not have that much "freedom of choice" in how to spend their money, Astro, what with all the governmental "mandates" that requires schools to spend funds on very specific items.

Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit @Astropig @historydawg @BeenThere


But that's only half the equation. I hope you don't make your household budgets and only list revenues,without taking account expenses.Teaching kids costs money-IF the student is consuming services.If they are not there,they don't cost anything and you people know it. If you can't even be honest about something this obvious, you really can't be trusted to manage public funds in a forthright manner.


And those "mandates"- They don't apply to imaginary children that are not in attendance.




dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @historydawg @BeenThere Yeah, but here's the problem..... schools fixed costs don't change just because a child leaves, so now they are forced to pay the utilities and other costs on reduced funding.  The few children that would take advantage of this monstrosity of an idea wouldn't probably mean fewer teachers are needed..... and their salaries don't decrease.  This is a bad idea and I'm glad it didn't even get out of committee last night.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @historydawg @BeenThere One other thought regarding your concept of "their money." Most people, and I doubt you're any exception, Astro, pay no where close to $4,000 per child in state taxes.  I know you've mentioned that you have multiple children.  Even in DeKalb on my $200,000 house, I pay about $1,200 in school taxes, and my total Georgia income tax was under $3,000.... approximately 50% goes to K-12 education, so I'm looking at roughly $2,700 in those two taxes.  I'll even give another $500 in sales tax - at 50%, I'm still under $3,000 paid in taxes for K-12 education.  So let's pretend that I have 3 children, I deserve $12,000 in tax credits?  I'm sorry..... yeah, that would be nice, but it is in no way, shape, fashion, or form the right thing to do for the state as a whole. No, this is bad policy and I am so glad that it stayed locked up in committee.  Sine Die till next year.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

What is scary is crazy people like you hiding under the cover.....you think the internet to push your agenda. You are the perfect troll to get your message out to the public. That being said, I may work for the same company and we are both running a scam on the public!

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

Edutroll.....So what for profit organization do you work for? Government staff? Or, Education?

EdUktr
EdUktr

@JBBrown1968

For those hiding under your bed at night when you're off your medications?

EdUktr
EdUktr

Keep in mind that if the AJC had its way, families in neighborhoods with dysfunctional public schools ... 

... wouldn't even have charter schools to turn to!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@EdUktr  Nice try, but the written record contradicts you. I wrote dozens of editorials on behalf of the AJC in favor of charter schools. Just checked and counted.

Here is an excerpt from one I wrote in January of 2001:


It is no easy task to start a school from scratch. Ask any of the frustrated charter school applicants whose proposals were recently rejected by the Atlanta Public Schools. While the Atlanta school system approved four charter applications, it turned down six others.

In truth, school systems are too thinly staffed to spare staff hours to shepherd charter school applicants through the maze of rules and regulations. That's why the General Assembly, which opens its 2001 session on Monday with an agenda dominated by education, ought to take the lead.

Within the state Department of Education, Georgia ought to establish a resource center for parents and neighborhood groups interested in launching charter schools. From parents curious about the concept to groups raring to go, the resource center could prime people on the basics of charters, coach them through the application process and link them to other charter movements around the state.

Although Georgia has had a charter school law since 1993, it was among the country's most restrictive. It allowed only existing public schools to convert to charter status, thus producing charters that looked pretty much like the status quo.

Three years ago, the state loosened its charter requirements, empowering parents, teachers, companies or nonprofit groups to form charter schools with the approval of their local boards of education.

Unfortunately, changes in the law have not been followed by changes in attitude. The four charter applications approved by Atlanta were from either for-profit school mills or established programs with track records. After three years and a half-dozen rejected applications, the parents behind a charter school proposal in Coweta County are convinced that no start-up charter stands a chance. As Coweta parent Jan Buchwald says, "Asking local school boards to approve charters is like asking McDonald's to approve a Burger King across the street."

Attorney Melanie Stockwell , the state Department of Education's director of the office of charter school compliance, says school boards remain reluctant to share money and power with charters and often contrive excuses to reject them.

A well-funded charter school resource center could arm applicants with the ammunition to puncture those excuses. Without outside pressure, school boards will never make room at the table for parents seeking to open charter schools. Together, though, parents and the state may be able to elbow their way in.

EdUktr
EdUktr

@MaureenDowney @EdUktr

Maureen, readers will remember all too well your opposition to the Charter Schools Amendment and your almost daily negativity toward any form of parental choice.

dg417s
dg417s

@EdUktr @MaureenDowney Well, as written - shall the state or local districts be allowed to create charter schools.... Both could already do that, so why was the amendment necessary?  It was only necessary so that Nathan Deal could give jobs to his cronies and further push Georgia into an oligarchy rather than a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@EdUktr @MaureenDowney Still oppose it. Doesn't mean I oppose charters. Notice you are not addressing your blatant falsehood the AJC has fought charter schools.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @Astropig @EdUktr


The word "voucher" is not in the bill. I would hazard an educated guess that Senator Ligon used the amendment process precisely because he knew that his legislation would be distorted and misrepresented here and elsewhere."Voucher" is a focus group tested scare word that really gets the dogs howling.


I hope he can get it passed.If not this year, next year.

EdUktr
EdUktr

@MaureenDowney @EdUktr

Blatant falsehood? Even the teachers' unions support hollow "charter schools" stripped of power to dismiss ineffective teachers or innovate in key ways.

And the real reason you oppose state power to approve charter schools is because it offers a way around local school boards effectively controlled by teachers' unions.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig @EdUktr @MaureenDowney Sorry, it is a voucher. What's that old saying about quacks like a duck, walks like a duck?



school vouch·er nounplural noun: school vouchers
  1. a government-funded voucher redeemable for tuition fees at a school other than the public school that a student could attend free.

Retiredmathteacher
Retiredmathteacher

I think there is an even bigger picture to argue here.  Why in the world would the rules of the General Assembly allow a bill that has been defeated be re-written as an amendment to totally replace another bill in what is obviously an attempt to circumvent the established legislative process?  And the elected leadership of the party that always touts transparency in all facets of government allows it?  This is unacceptable to me.


I was a card-carrying member of the Republican Party for many years.  I dropped my membership about 10 years ago, when I noticed that the state government under the Republican leadership was showing signs of being just as corrupt as the Tom Murphy Democratic machine they replaced in the 1990's.  I am now ashamed to say that I was extremely active in working for Republican candidates in the 1990's.  I hoped that they would be true to their word in reforming the Gold Dome and providing much needed transparency in the governing process.


If this law, or any other proposed bill, is good for the people of Georgia, debate the merits out in the open and pass it according to the rules.  The debate should include all the details of who benefits, as well as the opportunity costs of having the bill become law.  Though the rules clearly allow these questionable practices to pass legislation during the last moments of the session, the use of the rules does not make it right.


living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Perhaps this blog post would benefit from having a public policy official weigh in? Someone from outside Georgia?  Maybe  a Mike Petrilli or Rick Hess?  And also someone with an opposition point of view?  It's a very complex issue. I don't think this is like a flexible spending account for medical expenses.     Money should follow the child, and my feeling is that if there aren't public charter school options in a community, then using the money for certain private schools may be feasible.


Perhaps Maureen can put together a list of states that have passed or are thinking of passing similar bills?   Where are the best practices and "worst" practices?

teacherandmom
teacherandmom

So if this passes and in the name of "accountability"  we should insist the students partipate in all state assessments.  


Homeschooled?  Great...show up at your local district on the assigned date and take the EOG or EOC.  


Private school?  Awesome....now your private school is required to participate in all state assessments.  The private school's curriculum does not align with the state standards?  No problem... the private school can either adjust their curriculum or differentiate for voucher students.  


Oh..and by all means...let's require the homeschool and private schools to participate in SLOs, TKES, LKES, and TEMS scores.  


Because we must insure the tax dollars are being spent appropriately...we demand accountability.  It's the American Way.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@teacherandmom  "Homeschooled?  Great...show up at your local district on the assigned date and take the EOG or EOC. "


No problem - but remember that the EOC is only 20% of the grade, and the other 80% is "whatever you want it to be". - Just like in traditional public schools.


And they don't have to take the graduation test because there is not one.

teacherandmom
teacherandmom

@class80olddog @teacherandmom Do you agree they should be required to participate in the assessments?  Since teachers and schools are penalized when students do not show adequate annual growth using the new growth measures....CCPRI, TEMS, etc., do you agree the private school student/homeschooler's progress should be measured as well?


If they fail to show adequate growth over a reasonable time frame, isn't it fair they are penalized. Perhaps they lose the voucher money?

teacherandmom
teacherandmom

@class80olddog @teacherandmom And yeah...I know the EOC only counts 20%.  I also know that 50% of my annual evaluation rides on whether or not my students not only pass the EOC but also show growth.  I can have a student exceed the EOC but show "low growth."  

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@teacherandmom @class80olddog Not to mention, so far the state hasn't even decided how many questions students must get correct to show mastery of the subject matter.  Shouldn't they have figured out how much students ought to know while they were developing the test?

anothercomment
anothercomment

The only political party I have ever registered for is the Liberal party in NY state prior to moving to Georgia when georgia was a Dem state, I think this is a good idea after seeing what a F'd up mess Georgia schools are. I th liberal have no choice to put my children in public schools despite currently having a $7,800 plus a year Fulton county tax bill.

The schools are dysfunctional messes. They are too big and they cater to paying adults I administration. Teachers aren't paid enough. My youngest child has been brutally bullied, beat and threatened with death. Their are Gangs of black and Hispanic boys in 4 and 5 the grades even in Schools on the Northern loop. Of 285. black Girl GAngs are out of control and nasty threatening thugs in middle school.

I can spend every day in the public school system complaining about these little thugettes who live in the class c apartments ( section 8 ) or are line jumpers, I brought photo graphic evidence of the Clayton and Dekalb tags that did not belong. Nothing is done for discipline. Why the schools get more money off the free lunch fraud crowd, those that collect SSi on ADHD but don't keep their kids medicated, but want them in special Ed. My kids and every middle class homeowner kids are the lowest yield to the school, even though we bring the least to the most to the tax base.

I hope this passes, I will gladly take my much needed $4k a year, for my youngest who I had to pull from public school. While I continue to fight the fulton county tax assements on my old house.

Some will scream that I am a raciest. That I am not. CAn't be my first husband was an educated black man, so I was called a N lover. My best friend is black man. Another friend since college is a gay married man.

Starik
Starik

@anothercomment If I recall correctly, you live in Sandy Springs. If possible, move to Alpharetta or Milton, or southern Forsyth. No gangs. Schools are better.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

Schools, parents and our leaders in Georgia fail our kids. The truth is, we all live in our self center me worlds. My children did not come with a instructions and I struggle with what is right and wrong for them every day. Georgia school children are the same. When are we going to stop tell them they are useless without a private or college education. Both school systems do!  Please be assured they all should strive for both if capable. The lack of options is the death sentence. Options do include a good vocational education and that's okay!

One size fits all is a joke. Some kids only need basic Math, English, and good job training. Call your local plumber and check his prices........now that is an education.


MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

To all, 

How did we reach a point where schools are somehow viewed differently than roads, fire, police and parks -- all of which are public services we all fund because we believe they are essential? 

No parent pays enough in taxes to fund their children's public school education. It requires a pooling of tax dollars to pay for schools.

Under the argument that parents should dictate how education dollars are spent, why couldn't childless Georgians argue they, too, want to direct their tax dollars to what they deem important?

Why are parents somehow in a special class of taxpayers that can demand rebates?

If that is allowed, why can't Georgians without any kids also seek a rebate on their taxes so they can align spending with their preferences? 

Perhaps, they would rather see more funding for tennis courts or walking trails or senior centers. Why should Georgians who use mass transit pay for road building and maintenance? Why should Georgians who get all their books from Amazon pay for libraries? Why should Georgians who live on five-acre spreads pay for parks and ball fields they never use?

Because, we as a society feel these things are so important that we unite our resources to fund and preserve them.

Shouldn't schools lead that list?



Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney


"Shouldn't schools lead that list?"


Schools are BY FAR the largest item in Georgia's budget.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaureenDowney  Maureen - I think the difference it that there ARE viable options for educating children outside the traditional public school setting - such as private schools.  And the cost to the State for that education is no more than they would pay for the traditional school, so why not.  As long as the education is as least as good as the traditional school (and in failing systems it is often much better).


There are not private "police forces", fire departments, and road services and these services are not individually delivered like educational services.


I say this again - you want to stop the voucher and charter school movements?  Give parents what they want - a decent traditional public school system!


When I pulled my son from Cherokee County schools and home schooled  him and put him in a private school, do you think they CARED?  No, they had one less kid to educate  AND they got to keep all the local money. That is why school systems fight charters - they want ALL the money.  That is the real reason that DeKalb county is fighting to keep Druid Hills - they want their MONEY.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MaureenDowney


Excellent commentary, Maureen.  I will tell the readers that, in my opinion having studied, in depth, the political forces at work in America for the past 50 years, the reason public schools are now targeted is because, about 15 years ago, these wealthy powerful Republican leaders, in combination with some of America's top corporate CEOs, decided that "public government education" would be targeted as their next "hit" for absorption in their ongoing battle to make "government" so small that they could "drown it in a bathtub", and turn this nation into almost exclusively one which serves the political and monetary interests of the wealthy, ruling class - to the horror of Thomas Jefferson's ideas and ideals for an egalitarian, enlightened America.

Astropig
Astropig

@EdUktr @MaureenDowney


I honestly thought that this bill was dead for this session (even its house sponsor thought so when it didn't make crossover day). Now that it's back to life, I'm fired up. If it passes and my state senator votes for it (Jeff Mullis-R-Chickamauga), he gets a little thank you from the 'Pig Farm. Ligon does too.

dg417s
dg417s

@class80olddog @dg417s @Astropig @MaureenDowney Georgia Constitution:

Each school system shall be under the management and control of a board of education, the members of which shall be elected as provided by law. School board members shall reside within the territory embraced by the school system and shall have such compensation and additional qualifications as may be provided by law.

EdUktr
EdUktr

@MaureenDowney

Parents and students now freely choose the colleges they will attend, many of which are funded with taxpayer dollars. 

But free choice at the K-12 level would somehow be undemocratic by Maureen's self-serving logic.

JB-
JB-

@EdUktr While everyone likes the idea of having choices, how would a totally free choice system do better with over- vs. under-performing schools? The 'best' schools would have to turn away applicants (as Drew Charter does), leaving students to 'choose' from lower-performing schools. The under-performing ones would still do a bad job and would be closed, placing an undue burden on the remaining schools as we see in the closing of Intown Academy and the migration of those kids to Inman.  How would that work - do you get sent wherever they have room or do you get a choice? 


As schools 'compete' for students and the dollars that follow them, do you think we'd see something similar to what is happening in post-secondary and private secondary education, ie, spikes in costs to cover luxury services to attract more and better students? (Drew Charter looks nicer than my private high school and UGA when I attended 100 years ago). 
If we end up with essentially the same situation we have now - some high-performing schools and some failures, and they cost as much or more, what do we actually gain, other than making people feel like they had choice? And technically don't people currently have choice as they can choose where to live?

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@class80olddog @MaureenDowney


"When I pulled my son from Cherokee County schools and home schooled  him and put him in a private school, do you think they CARED?  "


Or maybe they did care.  It rather depends upon how the school viewed your ability to provide an appropriate education for your child.  If the school felt you could do so, they were probably fine with the decision   If your child was an ongoing discipline problem, they were likely very pleased with the decision.  However, if they worried about the level of education your child would receive, they may have cared a great deal. I have had students pulled out to be "homeschooled" and sometimes the school cared VERY much because we KNEW they were not going to get much of an education at all.  


Some parents are great at homeschooling and more power to them, but this is not always the case. Some use homeschooling as a method to avoid education altogether.  Some use it to teach their children a very limited amount of information, to keep them from questioning their parents' worldview. Some do it because they do not like getting up in the morning and do not want to receive any more phone calls when their children keep missing school. Some plop them in front of a computer without supervision and then wonder why they are not learning much.  Most ironic is when  parents pull their children out to try the homeschooling thing, then, within the same year, bring their children BACK to the traditional school because they have decided they can't hack it.  Inevitably, their children are well behind the other children who remained in the classroom.


I know this is so hard for some people to get, but IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE MONEY!!!!  A heck of a lot of those of us in education would not BE in education if money were the driving force in our lives!  Maybe those at the top are all about the money, but those of us in the trenches honestly have concerns about charters that go beyond wanting "ALL the money."