Public school advocates can celebrate the defeat of a voucher bill in this year’s General Assembly session. Then, they have to rally as vouchers will come next year.
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Public school advocates celebrate defeat of vouchers. But vouchers will be back

Controversial bill didn’t make it through this legislative session 

With the failure of the voucher bill to rise from the dead in the final hours of the Legislature Tuesday, public school advocates can celebrate for a while. Then, they have to regroup. 

Vouchers will return.

This is a Legislature intent on following a script -- one that I fear leads Georgia backward rather than forward. 

And that script calls for public funding and private management.  With billions of education dollars up for grabs, the private sector is eager to see this trend expand into Georgia.

Despite unimpressive academic results and increasing accounts of fraud with vouchers, educational savings accounts and charter schools, policy makers and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are pushing increased privatization of American schools.

Fraud flourishes because pro school choice lawmakers not only have been willing to divert billions of tax dollars to private control, they’ve adopted a hands-off attitude that facilitates wrongdoing. They also ignore any evidence that contradicts their world view that choice is the solution.

As a column in the Washington Post explained after a report on the poor performance of voucher students in the District of Columbia: 

‘...pro-reform members of Congress went so far as to ban rigorous evaluation of Washington D.C.’s voucher program. In spring 2017, the Institute of Education Sciences, which is the independent research arm of the U.S. Education Department, released a study showing that on math standardized tests, D.C. students who used vouchers to attend private schools fell behind their peers who remained in public schools. The research was a randomized controlled trial considered the “gold standard” experimental design. A week later, the Republican-led Congress approved a budget that included “a prohibition on the use of the experimental design evaluation method in any future federally funded studies of the D.C. voucher program.’

At the same time Arizona newspapers were doing blockbuster work reporting on the misuse of education savings accounts in their state and Arizonans soundly rejected an expansion of the program, our legislators were citing Arizona as the model for Georgia.

During the long discussions of the voucher bill, Georgia’s pro vouchers lawmakers had two standard lines they kept repeating. They were doing this for the children, and they trust parents to make right choices for their kids.

If they trust parents, recognize most of them support their local public schools and want to see them succeed.

There are 1.8 million children in Georgia public schools, more than nine out of 10 of the schoolage kids in the state. 

Do something for them. 

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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