Strong piece in the Gwinnett Daily Post by columnist Dick Yarbrough on Sen. Chip Rogers’ voucher bill, which Rogers pulled this session because he lacked the votes to pass it. But Rogers remains committed to vouchers and will return with his bill next year.
After a long corporate career, Yarbrough was managing director of communications and government relations for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games and is now a newspaper columnist.
Here is an excerpt of his column. Read the entire piece here.
It is not a beautiful day in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.
State Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, saw his beloved school voucher bill bite the dust this session. Groused Mr. Rogers, “We want to ignore the fact that our schools are failing. I’m going to have a hard time defending this one.” Not really.
Mr. Rogers, maybe public schools are failing because you and your colleagues have done a poor job of helping them succeed. Duh!
Rogers in his frustration at seeing the voucher bill shelved said the General Assembly spends more money on education than most any other issue and our state is almost dead last in results. Let me put on the corporate hat that I wore for 40 years, senator. If we had a department that was getting most of our corporate resources and we were not getting desired results, we would have fired whoever was in charge. In this case, that would be the Legislature.
Now, let’s get to the matter of vouchers — Chip Rogers and I have had this conversation before. He says vouchers are about “freedom” and “choice.” In his view, we should have the freedom and choice as to where we send our children to school. I couldn’t agree more.
Where we disagree is that I firmly believe that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for parents who wish to send their kids to private schools. The state has in place a program that allows a tax credit up to $2,500 for scholarships for public school children wanting to attend private schools. The cost? An estimated $50 million. Wouldn’t that money have covered much of the pre-K shortfall?
If parents want to send their children to private schools, let them. Also, let them pay for that decision. If they can’t afford it, then let the private schools dole out scholarships based on need.
So where do we go from here? I wish Gov. Deal would use his considerable legislative skills and assemble all the players that have a stake in public education — if there is a room big enough to hold them all — and keep them locked up until they agree on a shared vision for public education and establish a road map to get us there; a road map that will transcend future administrations and legislators.
If that can’t be done, then let’s agree to do away with public education altogether. Maybe the concept has outlived its usefulness. Let’s make home schooling, virtual schooling, charter schools and private schools the choices. But let’s make it a stated policy and quit trying to cannibalize public schools bit by bit.
Until somebody in state government shares with me a clear vision of the future of public education in Georgia, I will exercise my freedom and choice and continue to be unalterably opposed to school vouchers. Sorry about that, Mr. Rogers.
—from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog