Georgia congressman: I will work with Betsy DeVos to expand school choice

A school choice supporter holds a sign at a rally at the state Capitol. TAYLOR.CARPENTER@AJC.com

In this column, U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans, explains his support for school choice and his intention to work with new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to expand the option.

By Rep. Rick Allen

At the heart of our American values is the belief that each of us, no matter our circumstances, can pursue our own success and happiness through hard work. That’s how a small-town farm boy, the son of two educators, wound up a businessman in Augusta and later a congressman. The value of education cannot be underestimated on the path to achieve the American Dream. That is why I proudly support school choice.

U.S. Rep Rick Allen

It starts with moving away from the top-down, one-size-fits all mandates that have come to define our national education system. Federal initiatives like Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, while well-intentioned, frankly do not work. Parents and communities know how best to educate our children – not Washington, D.C., bureaucrats.

A group of local educators, parents, and community leaders in Dublin, Ga.,  recognized this flaw, too.

Dublin, in Laurens County in the western part of my district, is at the forefront of school choice by creating unique learning tracks based on a student’s individual needs and interests. The Dublin City School District is made up of two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and one alternative school.

School choice in Dublin begins in elementary school, where parents have complete control over which school their student attends. The two elementary schools comprise two different themes: STEAM, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics; and LEAP, leadership, environment, and public service.

I remember visiting one class where kids were learning math through movement and music – talk about innovation. After elementary school, these themes are carried on throughout middle school and high school through electives and clubs.

Encouraging students to find their passions early on and providing them with tools needed to continue their pursuit is truly powerful. Like many Americans, Dublin families have economic challenges; even so, education remains a top priority for the city and families. I am overwhelmingly proud to say that Dublin High School has a 96.3 percent graduation rate.

God created every child to be unique, each with special gifts. They deserve education options as diverse and unique as they are. Families should have the opportunity to select a K-12 education and environment that is best suited for their children, whether through traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, or homeschooling.

By empowering families with education options, school choice is playing a vital role in helping children access a quality education. States and local communities remain the pioneers of this great effort.

It makes me proud to know we have exceptional educators and students in Dublin who prove to be a living example of the success of school choice. As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, I look forward to working with the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in crafting opportunities to expand school choice for parents and children in Georgia and across the country.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

76 comments
teachermom4
teachermom4

Will vouchers pay for transportation? If they are truly intended to help poor folks "stuck" in their local schools, that should be a given. Poor folks may not have a car. Will it pay for before and after care? Poor folks won't be able to show up in the car pool lane if they have to work. Will the vouchers require that the private and charter schools take all applicants until full? My brother works for a private school in CT. His children still have to take, and pass, the entrance exam in order to attend. I can't imagine them accepting someone just because they were waving a voucher around. They would still have to prove they were capable of the work demanded of them. If the idea behind choice is really to help all children, and not the owners/shareholders of private charters, or to subsidize the school choice of the wealthy, then these kinds of questions need honest answers.

Starik
Starik

@teachermom4 My hope would be that new private schools will open, tailored to a particular type of student.  Vouchers for kids to learn auto mechanics. Vouchers for kids to compete for admission to the best colleges, and everything in between. Vouchers for residential schools for kids who need them.

kaelyn
kaelyn

So you're basically making the argument for class based education? You do realize that many of the kids who would qualify to compete for the "best colleges" are able to do so because they are born into wealthier, educated families. I'd imagine a lot of them are of average intelligence that's maximized with a healthy dose of family support and resources. On the other end of the spectrum is the really bright kid who's never able to realize his or her potential due to a poor environment.

The problem with your argument is that without a level playing field, we don't know who's capable of succeeding. How fair is it to keep kids in bad schools and then blame them for the outcomes? How many of these kids would even qualify for a voucher to a competitive school? Oh, that's right...vouchers only work for SOME people.

Libertylover
Libertylover

Why should the federal gov't be taking a position on school choice one way or the other? Trump promised to restore local control, not to replace federal mandates he doesn't like with federal mandates he does.

Starik
Starik

@Libertylover Federal mandates should ensure quality private schools, and pay for them with vouchers.

Kathy
Kathy

Why aren't we investing resources to bring all of the schools up to standards? Every child deserves a solid education. Not only children of rich parents.

sarahinez
sarahinez

@Kathy You're right. Also, not only children of smart or well-informed parents.

Starik
Starik

@sarahinez @Kathy Half the kids are below average in intelligence, and they deserve schools tailored to their needs. The same goes for kids who are about average and above average. The smartest kids shouldn't be in ordinary schools.

RamonMendoza
RamonMendoza

In this "school choice" scenario, what happens to the public schools and the students left in them? Are we okay with having failing schools anywhere in America? Why do we want to encourage parents parents to flee broken schools rather than pitching in to fix them?

Starik
Starik

@RamonMendoza Most of the parents in these schools are themselves products of bad schools, and can't "pitch in."  They don't have the education. They also have a culture that doesn't value schools.

BruceWeaver
BruceWeaver

Let's see: "Vouchers don't work", "Charter Schools don't work", "Benchmarking schools doesn't work", "teacher accountability doesn't work". Left unsaid by the "doesn't work" group is that traditional schools aren't working either. Are we to abandon these children at under-performing schools because we are afraid to try any idea which upsets the status quo? 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@BruceWeaver

Being unafraid to “try any idea” is the crazy, stupid, lazy, inane nature of the true status quo that keeps our public schools stuck in the mess they’re in.  Don’t do the hard work it takes to learn to get better at getting better.  Just “try any idea.”  God, The Universe, please help us and save us from the “try any idea” folks. 

BruceWeaver
BruceWeaver

@EdJohnson @BruceWeaver So trying to berate someone is your idea of a proposal. 

Your idea to keep working at getting better is the roadmap for another generation of schoolchildren who are left behind in failing schools. 

Again, what is your proposal.

BruceWeaver
BruceWeaver

@EdJohnson @BruceWeaver Once again you can only resort to spittle not a viable response. That site to which you referred me leads only to a letter that is of itself not a proposal that is cogent. You are right in a sense that I do have a challenge reading arguments so poorly made.

bigdoggie1
bigdoggie1

Bunch of crap! GOTPers HATE education, esp. PUBLIC education! Drumpfkov has proven that!

Trumputin is our first ILLITERATE president!

"It" doesn't read books. Neither does his base!

"It" is completely lacking in ANY intellectual curiosity, as is his base!

Public schools are what make America great.

Drumpfkov and his "Politweet" minions are what make Amerikkka awful!


Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

 I have come to the conclusion that the "choice" and "voucher" reform movement has absolutely nothing to do with improving education (aside from the support of those well meaning folks who have been bamboozled by the propaganda).  Why do I say this?  Because study after study and the mounds of data that has been collected over the last few years from those states and districts that have gone the "choice" route show that students in general do much worse in this situations.  Students in charters tend to do worse than those in traditional schools.  Students using vouchers tend to do worse than those in traditional schools.  And those left in the traditional schools tend to do worse as funding is siphoned away.  Are there success stories?  Of course there are, just as their are very successful public schools, but the data, in general, shows overall failure of the reform movement at great cost to taxpayers. 

Furthermore, the opportunity for corruption is much greater than in traditional schools.  Charter operators have been ripping off the taxpayers for millions, using funds for personal expenses like family vacations and new cars.  This, however, rarely gets reported in the media.  In stead, media reports continue to tout the "improvements" under charters and vouchers, even though the data does NOT back this up. 

So if the students and families in general are not benefiting under these "reforms" who is?

First, the wealthy that can already afford to send their children to private schools, but appreciate the little kick back of a voucher to cover a portion of the cost.  Your lower to middle class family will still be unable to afford a quality private school with the amount given by vouchers.

Secondly, the charter operators, who get access to billions in taxpayer money often without any of the burden of accountability required by the traditional public schools. 

Do charter and voucher supporters not think it the least bit odd, that "accountability" for public schools is always being held up as absolutely necessary to assure that traditional schools are doing their job?  That the millions the public schools are required to spend on testing and data collection is a must, to prove they are "accountable" to the taxpayers, yet when it comes to charters or those receiving vouchers, such measures are "restrictive" and inhibit the "innovation" necessary to offer a quality education?  That public schools are constantly scolded for following the "status quo" and not being innovative, while summarily being required to follow exacting mandates that keep them from creatively serving their students and communities?  

Make no mistake; it is all part of a well-designed plan to funnel taxpayer money into the pockets of the wealthy, while denying the rest of us real opportunity to rise "above our station."  

Now, I will certainly be labeled a "union shill" for this comment, even though I am not in a union and never have been.  I am however, in a classroom and have been for years, which means I have personally done far more to help educate children than most "reformers" ever will.  But they will say I only want to protect the "status quo" and have no real interest in helping students learn, though I have devoted my entire adult life to doing just that.  I can predict with certainly that choice supporters will label me as a "shill" in order to pressure others to simply dismiss everything I have to say. 

I also know, my opponents will say, that "throwing money" at the public schools does not work, and that it is time to try something new, but the truth is a bit more complicated.  Throwing money at public schools does not work IF YOU DO NOT INVEST THAT MONEY IN WAYS THAT ACTUALLY HELP! For years, the money "thrown" at public schools has gone into programs that made money for investors and corporations, but did little to actually help students. Why is this? Because no one seems to ever actually ASK teachers where they money would best be spent.... instead, the money comes down from on-high with a bunch of strings attached to be used to hire more "coaches" and more "administrators" and more "data specialists" and spent on more "testing programs" and more "technology" and "professional learning opportunities"  - which may make the Gates of the world a lot of profit, but doesn't really support student learning.

I have to hand it to the "reform movement" for their propaganda war; it has been wildly successful.  More so, I am sure, than they ever imagined it would be.  I am sure they are celebrating all the way to the back, while laughing under their breath. 

1776 Nation
1776 Nation

@Quidocetdiscit 

In the end, you're arguing against parents having a free choice. And you're doing it to safeguard your own job. 

Period.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@1776 Nation @Quidocetdiscit



Hmmm.  Remember folks, when I told you I my comments would be "dismissed"? 


Right on cue... it's the "You are only speaking out against reforms cause you want to keep your own job" trope...   A total dismissal of anything I might have to say, because apparently 1776 knows my motivations so much better than I know myself.  With a "period" even.  I suppose that is meant to intimidate me into silence.


How long, I wonder, till "And we all know you can't get a job in the 'real world'" is trotted out in a pretty little dress for its debut.



Of course, this is completely inaccurate.   I am arguing against those who would exploit parents and children for their own profit.     And I am doing it to protect my students and their parents from the reform "vultures" who are deliberately undermining the public school system which has helped foster the equality of opportunity this great country was built upon.


Free choice to choose a school that will not serve your special needs student, or a school that will close in the middle of the year and run off with the profits while leaving your child in the lurch, or will spend more money on enriching their corporate owners than on curriculum or well prepared educators, or a private school which you will still will not be able to afford with your small voucher...is not much of a "choice". 


Do I benefit from stronger public schools?  Of course I do...and so do my students, and their families, and my community and THIS NATION!


CHOICE does not equate with access nor does it equate with quality.  


And I am perfectly aware that, as the data which indicated the overall failure of the reform movement to improve schools becomes more wide spread, the "talking points" for those in said movement has shifted from a focus on "improving education for children" to "allowing parents the choice."  Can't really brag on "education success" of charters and vouchers when the evidence is growing that said reform movement has been a failure - so instead let's push the idea of "choice" for parents.  How patriotic!  How AMERICAN!  How red-white-and blue!  Everybody loves the idea of freedom of CHOICE after all!


Now if you wish to actually engage in a discussion involving actual facts and figures to back up support of your agenda rather than lobbing baseless accusations against others, I am willing to engage.  Otherwise, just slither back to your corporate masters and pick  up the latest talking points.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Beautifully expressed. I urge all readers of this blog to read, if nothing else in Jane Myer's book, "Dark Money," Chapter 3, which will document exactly how the public has been manuevered by conservative foundations to accept "school choice" as a sincere effort to improve public education instead of a vehicle to impose radical conservative ideology which included sources as radical as The John Birch Society.

Ironically, today this extreme right ideology has produced a president who is trying to undercut American governmental institutions while befriending Putin's Russia.

1776 Nation
1776 Nation

@Quidocetdiscit 

You and the other teachers' union trolls won't bury reform with those endless cut & paste tirades.

You do know that, don't you?

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@1776 Nation @Quidocetdiscit


Lol!  And there it is... right on schedule, out trots the the "union shill" accusation - with bells on.


You really need to get some fresh talking points.   You are becoming far too predictable.  No challenge at all.


Oh, and I assure you, I am perfectly capable of composing my own thoughts.  I have no need to "cut and paste" anything.  

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@1776 Nation @Quidocetdiscit


What I know is that you do not appear to have any actual facts or data to present which backs up your assertions. As a result you continue to attack those posting rather than addressing the content of their comments.  


Not a strong debate tactic, I'm afraid.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Quidocetdiscit


You nailed it.  Btw, according to Diane Ravitch, all of the educational theories of Bill Gates, which he has put into action, have failed.  Bill Gates was not trained as an educator.  Hubris, however, has kept him from acknowledging his limitations in education at the expense of the students who were pawns for his failed educational "theories."

bigdoggie1
bigdoggie1

@Quidocetdiscit @1776 Nation Don't worry about those sniveling snowflakes of Drumpfkov!

Arguing with spoiled, uneducated brats never leads anywhere.

Keep posting your cogent posts, and hang the Trumputin's and their politweet wars!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I want to try to educate this reading public as to what has happened to our nation to turn it so conservative toward the free market's imposing itself upon every aspect of American institutional life, including that within the educational arena in the past four decades.  This conservative change has not occurred by natural evolution; it has taken place as a result of deliberate design by some of the most wealthy people in America who were determined to change the trajectory of this nation's future toward capitalism, exclusively, in every American institution, including education.


In order for readers to understand what has been happening so that they do not remain politically naive, I am encouraging all may who read this post to read Jane Mayer's recently published book entitled, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right."

1776 Nation
1776 Nation

@MaryElizabethSings 

Liz, the reading public understands perfectly well that parents are best positioned to make decisions affecting their own children. 

Not zip codes or government bureaucrats.

And I'd further point out that the problem of failing public schools has been around for decades, without any solution from your side. Just empty promises and excuses. Meanwhile, real families are suffering. 

Have you no heart??

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@1776 Nation

You do have a choice. Take your kids to whatever school you like with YOUR money. Quit being a cheap moocher who failed miserably to plan for your choice for your kids' education.


Schools are for kids, all taxpayers pay for their education, and all taxpayers get a say so in the matter.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AvgGeorgian @1776 Nation


Readers, the reason that all taxpayers get a "say so in the matter" is that all taxpayers are invested in insuring an educated and literate society, which benefits everyone.  Support your local traditional public schools and work to improve them.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

What kind of "christian" private school does Rep. Allen want tax dollars to fund?


"During a closed-door Republican meeting discussing an amendment that prohibited discrimination against LGBT workers, Allen read a Bible verse that says about homosexuals "they which commit such things are worthy of death." [6][7] Allen told the assembled Republicans that they are "going to Hell" if they vote for the proposed anti-discrimination amendment.[8]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_W._Allen

#Constitutionalist
#Constitutionalist

@AvgGeorgian 

And teachers' union leader Albert Shanker once said "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children."

What's your point? Parents will decide which schools best meet their child's needs, not Rep. Allen or Shanker.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@#Pelosied @AvgGeorgian

And you read every one. Good. 


My goal is to help folks understand the issues at a logical level whether they agree or not. Some folks are stuck on feelings and can't/won't appraise beyond that level, but others are just ignorant from lack of exposure to different ideas.


Also, thanks for letting me know Maureen has appointed you as the Posting Sheriff to scold those who waste too much digital white space around here.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

This is one of my hobbies and you are one of my digital frenemies. I encourage you to multitask while posting as I do.

#Pelosied
#Pelosied

@AvgGeorgian

Why not go out and make some friends or get a hobby?  And no, unionistas like you are too monotonous to actually read.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@#Pelosied @AvgGeorgian

Actually I am quite content and happy. If there are any political or educational issues you need help to understand in the future, let me know and I will give you as much time as I can allow. If you just want to say republican slogans, I will try to make fun of, and scold you, in an entertaining way.

Laurie L Walters
Laurie L Walters

He might as well have said "I will work with Betsy DeVos to bring back school segregation."

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Rep. Allen sounds like a scammmer, taker and moocher. 

He is for taking local choice away from local taxpayers. 

He is telling all you taxpayers who do not have school-aged children that your opinion is worthless and he will vote to take your choice and money from you and give to your betters(parents with school aged children) to spend unaccountably as they please on private school, home school, or educational savings accounts. 

It is a wealth transfer with no accountability from those without school-aged children to those with.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@#Pelosied @AvgGeorgian

Hello EduKtr - All are free to choose from public options available. You don't get to take away others' choices though. Why do you want to take away choice from all taxpayers that do not have children? Are you so greedy that you need to take other peoples money and choice away to provide for only your choice?

#Pelosied
#Pelosied

@AvgGeorgian 

Hearing voices in your head? Resist them.

And accept that change is finally coming to those failing zip code schools.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@#Pelosied @AvgGeorgian


Is it really being free to choose ?

Under your plan, do students

in the city of Atlanta have

the option to attend schools in 

Cobb County if they don't live

in the district boundaries? 


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@#Pelosied @AvgGeorgian

As usual, you offer no insight, no research, no logic, and no intellectual curiosity and run away from answering hard questions -   In other words, a typical "conservative republican" poster.