Atlanta attorney and school choice activist Glenn Delk says the solution to Georgia’s education problems is not more money.
Instead, Delk writes:
Georgians are once again being inundated with calls from members of the government education blob, school board members, superintendents, teachers’ unions, etc. to demand that Gov. Nathan Deal, state senators and representatives eliminate the so-called “austerity cuts” and spend more money on our k-12 system.
On this blog, former Atlanta School Board member and unsuccessful candidate for state school superintendent Joe Martin, wrote, “The state is systematically starving our schools – and jeopardizing our future – under the pretense that it doesn’t have the needed funds, while the wave of tax exemptions and cuts never ceases.”
I wonder if Mr. Martin would admit that our public schools are not on a starvation diet, if he knew Georgians are actually spending a million dollars to graduate one student from high school ready to handle college-level work. Rather than “starving” k-12 education, Georgians have continued to pour ever-increasing amounts of their hard-earned money into the current system, while failing to demand quality results for the billions they’ve spent.
Student enrollment in Georgia increased 16 percent from 2000-2009, while per-pupil funding, excluding facilities, increased nearly 50 percent, to $9,649 in 2009. Unfortunately, the traditional k-12 system of public education, which the Georgia Supreme Court recently held was a monopoly, has failed to deliver solid academic achievement in exchange for our tax dollars. According to both the College Board and the ACT, barely 20 percent of Georgia’s high school graduates are college-ready in the four major academic subjects; only 5 percent of black graduates are college-ready.
However, a 2010 report by a Chicago-based think tank, the Heartland Institute, concludes that Georgia’s taxpayers spend $220,000 to pay for the k-12 education of every high school graduate. In other words, to turn out one white high school graduate ready to attend UGA or Georgia Tech without needing remedial education and compete with the rest of the world for jobs, Georgians spend $1 million per student; and $4 million for one qualified black high school graduate.
Given the reality of the 21st century worldwide competition for jobs, as well as the current fiscal reality in the U.S., Georgia cannot afford the current system, both for costs and quality reasons, much less increase spending as Mr. Martin advocates. Stanley Litow, president of the IBM Foundation, in a recent AJC guest editorial, said, in referring to our current public education system, “Business as usual not an option.”
He’s exactly right, given a January survey by the Harvard Business School of its alumni who believe that the United States faces “a deepening competitiveness problem caused by structural changes,” with the poor quality of our k-12 education system one of America’s major weaknesses.
Finally, Jim Clifton, chairman of the polling firm, Gallup, in his recent book, “The Coming Jobs War,” spelled out why neither Georgia nor the United States can afford to accept Mr. Martin’s advice to continue spending more money on the current governmental monopoly and accept inferior results.
As Mr. Clifton puts it:
“The primary will of the world is no longer about peace or freedom or even democracy; it is not about having a family, and it is neither about God nor about owning a home or land. The will of the world is first and foremost to have a good job. Everything else comes after that . The coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs . This is America’s war for everything .”
If Mr. Litow, Harvard alumni and Mr. Clifton are right, we cannot win this all-out world war for jobs without major structural changes to our current system of public education in Georgia. The current factory model of one-size-fits all must be replaced by new schools for Georgia, managed or run by traditional school districts, charter management organizations, private schools and charities free of the current regulatory structure.
Instead of appropriating more funds for the current system, Gov. Deal and the Legislature should make it clear that Georgia intends to win the worldwide war for jobs by dramatically improving the quality of our graduates. To do so, they must pass a very short, simple bill, which:
–Lets traditional school districts choose to compete with private and charter schools on a level playing field by removing all regulations on schools operating under this new system, except those imposed on private schools.
–Simplifies funding for these new schools, making funding transparent by placing a simple per-pupil allocation of $9500 per student, on the students’ back, which follows them to any school they choose, regardless of zip code or who’s operating it.
–Eliminates the concept of failing schools and the state’s attempt to fix them
–Instead judges these new schools on only 3 metrics – what percent of 9th graders graduate, how many graduates are college-ready, and how many either graduate from college within six years, or are employed. If the schools fail to deliver on these simple, concrete metrics, parents will leave and the schools will be forced to change or shut down due to lack of customers
To win the coming all-out world war for jobs, Georgia must quit doing business as usual, must quit throwing more money at a dysfunctional, ineffective government monopoly, and allow parents, school leaders and teachers to compete with the world on a level playing field. Our school leaders, teachers and students can compete with the best in the world if we simply recognize governmental monopolies don’t work, whether for airlines, healthcare, computers or education. Our political leaders need to acknowledge they don’t know how to run schools and free our teachers, school leaders and parents to choose.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog