“Politics,” as editor Charles Dudley Warner said, “makes strange bedfellows.” Here is proof.
This endorsement blurb from state School Superintendent John Barge can be found on the campaign website of state Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, a leader in the effort to expand private school voucher programs in Georgia.
I asked DOE if Barge had endorsed Rogers and received a single word reply: “Yes.” However, a few minutes later, DOE sent me this statement from Barge explaining his endorsement.
Here is what you will find on the Chip Rogers site:
“Senator Rogers is a true conservative leader, committed to education reform. Our paths to reform may sometimes differ, but our goal is the same; giving Georgia’s students a chance for a world-class education. I offer my full support for Senator Rogers and look forward to continuing our work together making Georgia the best state in America for k-12 education,” Dr. John Barge, Georgia School Superintendent.
Rogers is facing a challenge next week from fellow Republican Brandon Beach for the Senate District 21 seat.
Rogers and Beach were asked about private school vouchers at a debate moderated by my AJC colleague Jim Galloway.
Rogers replied: “How quickly should we do it? Yesterday. The consequences will be, we will finally have a market-based system, where the best educating schools in the system deliver a product to children and parents that they want, that they desire, that they will be involved with – and not a system that says because you live at 123 Elm Street, you must go to school over here. That’s craziness. That doesn’t work. No one would ever set something up like that in the private sector. But the fact of the matter is, this is in complete accordance with the Republican national platform…”
Challenger Beach countered there was no need for private school vouchers, stating, “We need to replicate schools around the state that are like north Fulton and Cherokee. We have good schools here, and it’s because we have parental involvement. Both of my kids attended public school, Milton High School. My wife was an educator at Milton High School. We have good schools because the parents demand it, and that’s wrong in Clayton County. They don’t have the parents demanding it…We don’t need vouchers. We need good public education with parental involvement. Each kid gets an $8,000 allotment per student. So they’re getting money to get educated in a public school. We just need to make our public schools good.”
While I do believe we can work with school choice advocates to create a more rounded approach to choice that protects education while giving parents more options, I do not believe that vouchers are the silver bullet that will save public education. Given our current budget shortfalls I do not believe this is the time to institute a pure voucher system that would drain already dry public school budgets. This would only increase teacher layoffs and firings, further heightening our deficiencies in Georgia.
A local school superintendent sent me a note about the Barge endorsement of Rogers, saying, “I hope someone writes about the multiplicity of ways this defies logic and suspends belief. I am, for the first time in longer than I can remember, at a loss for words. It is difficult to imagine any series of justifications and excuses that would lead to this.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog