Kathy Ashe: Could support vouchers if private schools agreed to testing

Among the surprises at a panel Thursday morning of influential legislators on the House Education Committee was this statement from the grand dame of education reform and longtime House member, Atlanta Democrat Kathy Ashe:

“I would vote for a voucher bill if the receiving school is willing to give their students the assessments that students are required to take in public schools. If you agree to take the public dollars, you are going to have to take the tests.”

Now, Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta) may feel quite safe in making that statement – a departure from the Democratic position against vouchers — because she knows that private schools have resisted any attempt to impose state accountability testing on them. Most do not want to give the CRCT, which they feel puts them under the thumb of the state curriculum.

Seated to Ashe’s right at the panel was fellow Democrat Alisha Thomas Morgan of Austell, who also endorses choice and vouchers.  Morgan agreed with Ashe that any private school that receives state dollars should administer state accountability tests.

“Your zip code determines where you go to school. All of us here in this room have choices. Many parents do not have that choice because they cannot afford it,” said Morgan.

As the lone Republican on the dais, state Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) was not to be left out of the choice rally. “The money needs to follow the child, ” he said.

I don’t know. I still argue that the money that underwrites my children’s public school education does not “belong” to me. I don’t pay nearly enough taxes to cover my children’s schooling. The money  that pays for their teachers and their public schools represents the collective commitment of my community to public education.

I think that commitment is as important to our country as freedom of speech and religion.

What do you think?

29 comments Add your comment

B. Killebrew

December 10th, 2009
1:10 pm

Maureen, I think you already summed it up perfectly…

The commitment (the collective commitment of the community to public education) is as important to our country as freedom of speech and religion.

Hear, hear!

December 10th, 2009
1:42 pm

I also agree with you, Maureen.

As a society, we have the obligation to provide the basic education to our children. However, if parents choose to send their children to somewhere else, they made the choice to decline that offer.


December 10th, 2009
1:46 pm

“Your zip code determines where you go to school. All of us here in this room have choices. Many parents do not have that choice because they cannot afford it,” said Morgan

This is why the state should ensure that all students have an equitable education by funding all schools equally, rather than relying on property taxes. As for the rest, Marlene, you’ve said it perfectly – very few parents pay the full price of their childrens’ educations.


December 10th, 2009
2:40 pm

Great post, Mo.

And it is those communities that will bounce back the fastest from the Great Recession. Those that care not for their public schools – Cherokee County – will see well into the next decade before their property values return to what they once were.

Not to mention it’s the decent thing to do – taking care of our children, looking out for the future. Nothing beats sound education when it comes to this and I am so, so grateful to the community and teachers of East Cobb for sharing these priorities.

Go Raiders!

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December 10th, 2009
4:01 pm

I need to ask Rep. Millar, ‘”What money are you referring to when you say it should follow the child”? Is it the local, state, or federal portion?

Monies spent to educate children in each district is done by the simplistic “Budgeted Dollars/Number of Students”. It does not factor in that each student may have different needs thus different allocations associated with them.


December 10th, 2009
4:27 pm

No vouchers. Public Schools = Public Money.

It is not the state tests that are the trump card here, what a magic act these officials are playing – it is the practice of “selective enrollment” that is at issue.

I can foresee one big clump of confusion for the public.

“Money should follow the child” should be for public schools which includes charter schools. Neither one of those two models can exclude students who apply. Vouchers – different story – they can and do exclude all day long. Absolutely no vouchers.


December 10th, 2009
4:35 pm

Maureen, you have consistently articulated my feelings on vouchers and the need to support public education. Thank you! Folks like Millar appear to consider education a mere commodity, the consumption of which benefits only the individual child. This ignores the public benefits of education, such as lower costs for public assistance and the criminal justice system, and a broader tax base that allows all of us to pay less when more of us are in good jobs.

It’s these social benefits that motivated us a long time ago to create and fund public schools in the first place – because we (all of us) have an interest in seeing that other people’s kids get a good education. Even fiscal conservatives (when not driven by ideology)should see the value in that.


December 10th, 2009
5:17 pm

Someone asked me this week how do private schools in our area compare to our school. I told them that I truly don’t know the answer if they are asking me in terms of student achievment because the schools do not have to provide test results to the public. From experience I have seen students re-enter public school way behind their peers, and I have seen students who excelled. This is exactly the same way things are in public schools. Personally, I don’t know how anyone can claim with any authority that private schools do a better job because there is simply no data for us to compare.

Maureen, you have given one of the most substantial quotes regarding public education by saying that the taxes serve as the community’s commitment to the students. This is why some communities have better schools – the people are committed to provide the resources it takes for a great education. This is not just in terms of money, either. It is also in terms of parental support, high expectations for children, the values and work ethics that children need, and many other non-financial contributions.

Quotes like “the money follows the child” are excuses and demonstrate a complete lack of commitment to maintain good schools. This attitude is very self-centered and, if successful, will rob more children of a chance to receive a good education.

Our state leaders are not committed to assuring a quality education to all children. They continue to erode the quality of public education by reducing the funds that are desparately needed. Their lack of commitment shows by reducing the number of days for school. Their lack of commitment is demonstrated each time a restriction is imposed on local school boards to make their own decisions.


December 10th, 2009
5:34 pm

Enter your comments here


December 10th, 2009
5:34 pm

I am all for pivate schools receiving vouchers to educate children and they should have the same accountablity standards. The ones in our are have higher standards.


December 10th, 2009
5:39 pm

I am in support of vouchers because “Your zip code determines where you go to school. All of us here in this room have choices. Many parents do not have that choice because they cannot afford it.” Not having the ability to afford to send your child to a private school doesn’t mean that you don’t care, but it may mean that the school in your district doesn’t meet your child’s needs. Although I’m a public school teacher I have sent my kids to private school. When they entered public school (only because I could no longer afford it for two kids) they were well ahead of their peers. I have also taught in small private schools, and I will tell you that not all private schools are equal. There are many that lack much of what public school has to offer. You have to do your research. But for those kids stuck in a bad school district where the schools are failing the students, I would prefer they have options. Everyone can’t afford to live in the “best” school districts.


December 10th, 2009
5:49 pm

The only thing that a voucher does is to make it slightly cheaper for a wealthy person to send their child to a private school. The voucher per se doesn’t add up to choice because most people can’t afford the cost of say, a Westminster, and the voucher barely makes a dent in the tuition. It’s a completely dishonest way to take tax dollars away from poorer schools and funnel them into private schools.


December 10th, 2009
6:23 pm

Kathy Ashe merely articulated what most of us already knew – that is, government money ALWAYS comes with strings attached.

Which is why most of the top tier private schools would never agree to accept them.

The route to fix our public schools is quite simple, but first, a few sacred cows related to student IQ will have to be slain.

Which is why public schools will never get better…


December 10th, 2009
7:55 pm

Vouchers wouldn’t cover the cost of the good private schools in our area, because the tuition to those schools is higher than the per-pupil expenditures of the public schools. Vouchers might cover the cost of the the private “schools” where the students sit at cubicles and work in workbooks all day.

Of course, the good private schools are pretty selective, but the ones that charge voucher-level tuition will admit pretty much anyone who can pay the tuition…


December 11th, 2009
12:42 pm

While Westminster is indeed beyond the reach of all but the independtly wealthy I have known far too many working stiffs who can and do scrape together the 8-10k a year that most private schools charge by scrimping money from their budget everywhere they could. You can get into a REALLY nice private school for $13~14k. A $7,000 voucher would help them tremendously.

“The money that pays for their teachers and their public schools represents the collective commitment of my community to public education.” – while this is true it does not negate vouchers at all. Vouchers pay for education. Period. They go towards the communities intended purpose. It’s not like voucher money goes to buy tickets to Disneyland; it goes toward educating a child. Isn’t that where it was supposed to go?


December 11th, 2009
1:37 pm

Incidentally almost all private schools test using standardized tests and release scores to their stakeholders – (parents and prospective parents). Many release their SAT scores to local newspapers.


December 11th, 2009
7:00 pm

If we spent $13-14K per student on instruction in public schools, not counting food services, transportation services, or special education services (which frequently aren’t offered by private schools), and if we also made our students buy all their books, lab expendables, and other supplies, I’m betting we would have some really fine public schools.

Sometimes it looks to me as if we’re expecting our schools to deliver “Mercedes” quality at “Volkswagon” prices….

And I’m betting that, even with a $7000 voucher, poor students wouldn’t be able to afford the $8-10K of many private schools, much less the $13-14K (plus books, fees, etc.) of the “REALLY nice private school”.


December 11th, 2009
7:12 pm

BTW, according to data on the DOE website, the average amount spent per year to educate a student in Georgia is just under $9000.


December 11th, 2009
11:35 pm

OK, so $9000 per student, pretty darned good deal since my school taxes are just over $1000…. if I had 3 kids, I would shut up and be happy. Vouchers, however, are nothing but welfare for those who can afford the additional tuition already. RJ — you want good public schools, get the parents and community involved. The community has a deep rooted interest in the success of the local public schools because about 80% of people will live in the county where they grew up. Investment in public education does nothing but improve the local community in the long run. Strong public schools lead to higher median incomes, higher property values, lower crime rates and it all starts from parents and the community being involved and making the kids give a damn and not think they are entitled to an A just for showing up.

Free Market Educator

December 12th, 2009
1:02 am

The best solution is to return to the free market of the founding fathers and repeal the state compulsory attendance laws. All government educational holdings would be auctioned off. The unconstitutional position of Secretary of Education would be deleted. All state departments of education would go. The budget for any educational expenditure would be deleted. Obama is asking for $46.7 BILLION right now. That doesn’t include local property taxes or SPLOST funds. Or PTA fundraisers. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/fy2010_factsheets/fy10_education.pdf
All of this money would be returned to the taxpayers. They would now have CASH to start schools that people want. The successful former government school teachers would be in demand and could command a decent salary. The perverts and child molesters might not be so lucky. The educational publishing monopoly would be busted. Quality and innovative curriculum would be produced for less cost. All the slackers and non-intellectually inclined students would be able to join the work force at any age. Why should we go to China for our cheap labor? Freedom of religion and free speech would be restored to students and teachers. Many parents who had wanted to home school now can with an infusion of cash. ALL parents would be absolutely accountable for their children. If they squander their extra cash, their own children suffer, and ultimately, they will also. Those who are responsible, WILL BE REWARDED! Without the coddling of Big Brother, the survival instinct will kick in and a new work ethic will ensue. The 501c3’s will return to their original charity status and will provide for those truly in need of help, BUT WITH ACCOUNTABILITY!
Oh my! This is beginning to sound like a true stimulus package….

And for those of you who still get your news from the MSM, GLOBAL WARMING HAS BEEN EXPOSED AS A COMPLETE FRAUD! Algore just might get to be best buds with Madoff…



December 12th, 2009
9:22 am

So, FME, the best solution is for only the rich to be able to attend school and return to the days of poverty and disease filling the streets? Public education is the great equalizer. I went to school with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met who are now very successful doctors, but I also know that these people would not be there if they had to pay out of pocket for their K-12 education. Even in the days of the founders, we had schools that children attended without paying tuition — guess what, those were public schools.


December 12th, 2009
8:10 pm

FME, I must point out that at least one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, was a great proponent of public education, in part because he felt it would give the deserving poor child a chance at improving his lot. He also felt that an educated citizenry was our best chance at keeping our republic.

You are arguably correct about eliminating federal involvement in education, but so far as state involvement goes, you are unquestionably wrong.

Powers not enumerated in the federal Constitution are reserved for the states. Georgia’s Constitution (Article VIII, Section I) says “The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or postsecondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation. The expense of other public education shall be provided for in such manner and in such amount as may be provided by law.”


December 14th, 2009
7:33 am

I am planning to send my youngest of three to a private Catholic school precisely because they do not have to abide by the state-mandated tests. Am I worried she will fail those tests? Heck no! The girl is smart as a whip and doing very well in school. HOWEVER, she, her classmates, and her teacher are all stressed out over the state tests and the amount of information the kids are expected to regurgitate – not learn for life – on the state tests. Did I mention the child is in third grade??!! This is too young to stress over a test. We want her to be free to learn for life, not to pass a test. It will be incredibly tight budget-wise to send her to Our Lady of Mercy, but the freedom to learn combined with the presence of our Catholic values in her classroom will make it worth it. Also – some colleges and universities are starting to wake up to the fact that the state educational system is rewarding the ability to test well. This does not necessarily mean that the state educational system is turning out those able to think, to synthesize and retain what they are being taught. Which is really of more value in the workplace>

Tom Walker

December 14th, 2009
9:20 am

Kathy Ashe is dead wrong if she includes schools for the learning disabled child in her plan. The state of Georgia underfunds public education in general and disgracefully underfunds education for learning disabled kids. My wife and I are not ‘rich’. Our friends with LD kids are not rich, either. We’re all making huge sacrifices to put our kids in private schools that know how to help them. We continue to pay school taxes after we no longer receive those services. If you can’t help us, at least don’t hamper us by imposing inappropriate standards on our children.


December 14th, 2009
5:28 pm

@ScienceTeacher671 :”If we spent $13-14K per student…I’m betting we would have some really fine public schools.”

I’m betting your incorrect. Right now GA spends close to $9,000 per student. The national average is around $9,200. Some states spend a bit less. Utah for example spends a bit over $5,000 per student. Yet GA is ranked #48 out of 50 states plus DC. That rather strikes me as odd; as if perhaps we are not getting a very education for our dollar in Georgia.

“Chart 4 compares real per-pupil expenditures with American students test scores on the long-term National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading examination from 1970 to 2004. While spending per pupil has more than doubled, reading scores have remained relatively flat.”

more at : http://www.heritage.org/research/Education/bg2179.cfm

I’m thinking that “not enough money” is not the problem and that “more money” is not the solution.


December 14th, 2009
5:46 pm

Mom_247 and Tom…. both of you are right…. and this is coming from a public school teacher who believes that our public school students have been turned into cookie cutter models of education by the previous administration. There is no reason to expect all students to test at the same level, and their education (and subsequently the assessments) should be customized to meet the needs of the individual student, rather than have all the students fit the mold that they can’t, shouldn’t, or maybe simply don’t want to be a part of. We need stronger vocational education rather that such a strong focus on all academia. Does every student need to take Algebra II? Does every student need to read MacBeth? I would argue basic consumer math, lessons in Standard American English, basic understandings of history, politics, economics, physical science, biology, chemistry (don’t want to mix bleach and ammonia, for example) could suit many of our students quite well. Several of these classes could even be combined in some way, but prepare them to enter a trade at the same time. I know many mechanics, masons, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and so on who make more money each year than I do with a master’s degree.

In all seriousness though, what has NCLB brought us? Stressed out teachers, stressed out students, unfunded mandates that hurt students and don’t really show what they know. Let’s fix public education. Don’t forget, we as voters have the power to change those making the decisions for our kids. We have to look beyond party on this and find candidates who make the education of our children their top priority so you don’t have to say my school isn’t doing what it needs to, let me spend extra money to find one that does. It’s not the school’s fault usually, but our hands are tied by the people we vote in to power.


December 14th, 2009
8:38 pm

@d – I’d love to see a stronger vocational system. I really do think it would help a lot of kids that would otherwise drop out as well as give kids a head start into life that are going to go to college. I’d also like to see more kids going into initiatives such as Peace Corps, the Military, etc. [voluntarily of course] They teach a level of responsibility that serves them a lifetime.

I’m not personally sure if NCLB has helped, hurt, or just thrown more money down the drain to no effect. However, as far as I can tell:

a) NCLB was not underfunded at all. “Since enactment, Congress increased federal funding of education, from $42.2 billion in 2001 to $54.4 billion in 2007. No Child Left Behind received a 40.4% increase from $17.4 billion in 2001 to $24.4 billion. The funding for reading quadrupled from $286 million in 2001 to $1.2 billion.”

b) NCLB should not require any funding at all. It required such things as standardized testing [didn't everyone already do this? I went to school ages ago and I remember the IBST, TAP, etc] It also required schools to post those scores [again - we had already been doing this in Georgia for years before NCLB.]

c) NCLB does not “expect all students to test at the same level” as far as I know. It expects something like 94% to pass a test that grades minimum expectancy that their grade level. 5% are fully excluded from testing and another 1% can take alternative tests made up specifically for them [eg Special Ed]. In addition any student with an IEP takes the test under the conditions the IEP grants them.

d) I’ll say it again – our school system in Georgia is not underfunded. The way the funding is spent / allocated / doled out is a completely different topic. It may be that they way that the money is spent and the different departments / areas / etc that our education money goes to is not benefiting our children the way we think it should; but we certainly are spending enough of it that we should be seeing much better results than what we are seeing.



December 14th, 2009
10:49 pm

James, in 2014, the pass rate is going to be 100%…. if NCLB isn’t changed (although it likely will be early next year) one student failing the test will label the entire school as needs improvement. Case in point….. the middle school I attended growing up missed AYP two years in a row because students with learning disabilities in math did not pass the math test. The entire school was labeled needs improvement. I’m not saying we should ignore any one group, but with that NI label, parents of students who were successful or not in that one subgroup could pull their children out of a school that was serving them well — or as well as testing showed.

I will also say, yes I took standardized tests growing up. I did not, however, take 4 tests a year…. ITBS, CoGAT, CRCT, and in Gwinnett, the Gateway. We are testing our kids and not really finding out what they know.