Don’t move backward on school choice

Gerard Robinson recalls the first time people called on legislators to put income limits on Georgia’s tax-credit scholarships. He was one of them.

“When the coalition in Georgia worked to create” the scholarships in 2008, Robinson told me Thursday, “I was actually in the minority asking and pushing for a means-tested voucher. … When it became law, I said fine, let’s make this work.”

Robinson certainly has tried to make the $51.5 million-a-year tax-credit scholarship work. He’s a board member for the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, the largest of Georgia’s student scholarship organizations (SSOs) which collect donations via the tax-credit program and award them to deserving students.

But he also brings a national perspective, having worked with Milwaukee’s voucher program and as a top education officer in Florida and Virginia. And he thinks Georgia shouldn’t move backward and impose income limits, the practice known as means-testing, as other states do.

“I believe the Georgia model will give the entire school choice movement a chance to see what works,” Robinson said, “and to expand the model of social justice, because there frankly are middle-class families who earn too much to qualify for a means-tested scholarship but can’t afford educational options.”

How did he change his mind about means-testing?

“The social justice model said let’s help the people who are in most need, and that’s usually people who qualify for free and reduced price lunch,” he said. “What the model does not include is that you have middle-income families who don’t qualify for free and reduced price lunch, or who make $50 above the threshold, and in no way are they rich, but in fact they are in need.

“It’s expanding the circumference of the social justice model, while not leaving out the lower-income families who were the main constituency from the beginning.”

The lack of means-testing is one of the criticisms leveled at Georgia’s tax-credit scholarships during this legislative session. It appeared the critics had won a victory when SB 243, introduced Feb. 28, said SSOs “shall give preferences to students with financial needs” in the future.

Instead, the language was changed to say SSOs “shall consider financial needs of students” (emphasis added), a huge change in terms of legislative language that helped the bill pass the Senate on Thursday. It was a huge and necessary change, Robinson said.

“You create a [school-choice] law and you build upon it. You don’t scale back,” he said. “To scale back the eligibility formula to link to an ideological formula is not a step in the right direction. … If the goal is to help families, then let’s see this program mature as it moves forward.”

Part of that maturity includes enhancing transparency of the program — and making clear it is illegal for SSOs to let donors earmark their gifts for a family member or friend.

Beyond those governance matters, Robinson attributed the renewed cry for means-testing to “the politics of rich and poor.”

“Somehow, when you don’t help only poor people, by default you’re [allegedly] benefiting extremely rich people,” he said. “That’s not true.”

“Middle-income families, in this economy in particular, are in need of financial assistance to help pay for educational options. And the money we provide, about $3,200 [annually per scholarship] on average, it’s not covering full tuition, it’s not covering half-tuition, but it’s helping people make ends meet.”

– By Kyle Wingfield

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436 comments Add your comment

Historydawg

March 11th, 2013
5:32 am

Abandoning public education, the brainchild of our Founders, for segregation and the greed of individuals is shameful and unAmerican. We have lost all responsibility to community. Taxation is not theft and should be earmaked for the benefit of all, not a select few.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 11th, 2013
6:02 am

Driving up the cost of college. The more you give, the more they take. The more they charge, the harder we legislate. Lather, rinse, repeat. Year after year after year, until we have a massive educational institution, the government absorbs the student loan market amd our kids keep getting stoopider.

Remember when a high school diploma was the benchmark for gainful employment, back in the days before our government became busy body know it alls, out to cure the world of all ills? Nowadays a high school diploma ain’t good enough. Why is that? It’s almost as though the high school is nothing more than a college prep course anymore. No longer life prep academics being taught, let’s get them ready to pass the SAT and then punt them along to four additional years mired in the government world of brainwashing. All in the name of education. Saddling whole generations with massive debt and enriching the faculty lounge dwellers like barak obozo.

We are happily participating in our own demise.

Why don’t we just focus on providing a good education?

Mitch

March 11th, 2013
6:07 am

The one true factor in identifying successful schools is the economic level of the parents so any plan to allow school choice must be targeted towards those at the lower economic level. So, what are the facts, what is the income of parents currently using school choice and how receptive are private schools to poor students?

UIC

March 11th, 2013
6:14 am

Kyle,

Don’t columnists have a self imposed rule about how quickly they should expose themselves as hypocrites? On March 8, you bemoaned corporate welfare by writing that, “lobby groups.. seek as many beneficial…. government subsidies and mandates as possible.” Two days later on March 10, you’re begging for government sponsored welfare subsidies for private school education. The only difference in the two is that you do not see where the corporate welfare you bemoan will benefit you personally, but you can easily see where the private school welfare will benefit you personally.

Like most Americans, you cannot put yourself in the shoes of the people who would benefit from the green energy jobs you complain about, (they are no different than you in wanting a government benefit that would benefit them personally) and you have a myopic view of that you cannot understand or imagine, i.e. the benefit you’ll receive when the cost of green energy is less than that of fossil fuel energy. Aren’t you happy that governments around the world invented the Internet? I’d guess there was a columnist back then bemoaning the fact that tax payer money was being wasted on some crazy scheme to allow the world to be interconnected via a CRT. Do you now see where both the efforts of these different governments and the tax dollars they used are now benefiting you personally?

Even if private school welfare is a good idea, it is not the most pressing issue in our state and you write too many columns about it.

Aynie Sue

March 11th, 2013
6:22 am

Aesop’s right! All the hassle about “school choice” and tax-credit scholarships is a waste of time. The attention and resources should be placed on better education for all students by improving public schools..

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 11th, 2013
6:30 am

The public school system is the root of all evil, aynie, just sayin. We’re on the same page but choice is the only way we will ever improve the K-12 system.

If we pour more money into government run education, they will have more to squander.

HDB

March 11th, 2013
6:54 am

Too many people are failing to see that attempting to make private education fit the public school paradigm….and vice versa won’t work!! Private education is designed to discriminate as to who that system educated whereas public education is designed to educate the MASSES!! The cost of private education is also cost-prohibitive!! Compare the costs of APS vs. Westminister…..and apply that cost differential throughout the system and it’s evident that private education is DESIGNED to keep the masses AWAY!!

Besides….. private education’s curriculum has some challenges that need rectification…like teaching creationism rather than science……

Mr_B

March 11th, 2013
7:01 am

Another example of the tendency to see every issue as an “either/or” proposition.

Why not simply raise the eligibility threshold by 10K or so above what qualifies as FORL?

But then the 150K or so folks pushing for this “reform” still couldn’t direct their tax deduction toward little Biff or Buffy, could they?

But fix public education first. (It’s not nearly as broken as most people think!)

independent thinker

March 11th, 2013
7:02 am

“”Middle-income families, in this economy in particular, are in need of financial assistance to help pay for educational options. And the money we provide, about $3,200 [annually per scholarship] on average, it’s not covering full tuition, it’s not covering half-tuition, but it’s helping people make ends meet.””"”"”"”"”"”

If these words came from Obama or a Democrat , Kyle and the cons here would be having a picnic ripping into them as moochers, 47% who don’t pay taxes , etc. etc.
When a con passes a government subsidized program, it is never called socialism,
just a solution to a problem caused by liberals. What a bunch of horse doo.Keep it up members of the stupid party!

ad

March 11th, 2013
7:03 am

Just another step to get rid of public education and further stratify society. Separate but equal?

J. Mill

March 11th, 2013
7:05 am

UIC, your argument that awarding tax credits for private contributions to K-12 scholarship program is a form of “government sponsored welfare subsidies for private school education” makes no sense. The government compels parents to secure a K-12 education for their children, but only provides a government subsidy for parents who send their children to government-operated schools. In awarding subsidies, the government discriminates against parents who choose to send their children to private K-12 schools. This discriminatory policy most negatively impacts children from low and middle income families who do not have the financial means to send their children to private schools and have to remain in government run schools. Do you really favor the government using taxes to create a coercive educational monopoly?

Don't Tread

March 11th, 2013
7:06 am

The DeKalb County situation is a perfect example of why everyone needs to have school choice, and yet the liberals on the blog want to pour more money into the fail pit.

The parents should have the right to choose what school to send the kids to, and the school tax money should follow the child.

independent thinker

March 11th, 2013
7:16 am

How is giving someone a state sponsored voucher for private education related in any way to actual property taxes paid by a parent?

Bud Wiser

March 11th, 2013
7:27 am

Dismantle the Department of Education. Since its inception during the Carter administration, our country’s world rankings in education has seen the us falling from 1st to 25th in the world. A lot of people would see teachers unions as the major cause, but I do not.

The DoE is just another beaurocratic structure designed to keep more ‘workers’ on the federal payroll. If anyone ever saw the movie “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, imagine the ill-constructed house in that movie as DoE, the contractor as the govt, and Hanks and Long as the taxpayers.

DoE has been as effective in improving education as LBJ’s “Great Society” has improving minorities in raising them out of a lifetime of poverty and generational family disfunctionality.

Lawyers have spread their cancerous touch into education, with suits against the system for a wide variety of ‘discriminations’ against children, varying from what they where, how teachers make them ‘feel’, bullying, the list goes on and on.

Scrap DoE? Never have a chance. How many governmental agencies in the history of this nation ever been dismantled when their effectiveness, or even usefulness, has reached its end?

Here’s the easy answer to that question; raise your arm and make a tight fist. Now, count the number of fingers still extended.

Thomas Heyward Jr

March 11th, 2013
7:27 am

Can a homeschool family deduct any of their homeschool expenses?

The simple answer is, “No; there are no tax credits or deductions for homeschool expenses from the federal government.”
Nor the State.
.
Therein lies the tragedy…………and the “social INjustice”.

sailfish

March 11th, 2013
7:32 am

The only real way that we will improve education is by having better parents. It’s way too easy and convenient to lay all the blame on public schools, nice scapegoat but it’s the home where true learning begins and ends each night.

Morning Reads 3/11/13 — Peach Pundit

March 11th, 2013
7:41 am

[...] Could Alabama do something right with education that we do wrong? I didn’t know ‘Bama-ians COULD learn. See also Kyle Wingfield’s article on the subject. [...]

JDW

March 11th, 2013
7:41 am

If you want to send you kid to private school pay for it…like UIC earlier I am somewhat amazed at the hypocrisy in running down government investments in new markets like green energy while supporting the siphoning of our tax dollars to private schools when public schools are in dire need of funding…it is unconscionable.

indigo

March 11th, 2013
7:42 am

sailfish – 7:32 “the only real way that we will improve education is by having better parents”.

I believe that is true. In fact, many people have been saying this for a long time.

Unfortunately, parents, in a broad and general sense, aren’t getting any better and there’s no reason to believe they ever will.

So, we can look forward to a never ending stream of social experiments designed around social and political agendas.

Thomas Heyward Jr

March 11th, 2013
7:52 am

sailfish

March 11th, 2013
7:32 am

The only real way that we will improve education is by having better parents. It’s way too easy and convenient to lay all the blame on public schools, nice scapegoat but it’s the home where true learning begins and ends each night.
——————————————————————————————————–
.
It’s rather difficult to be a good father ……….when you’re one of the millions of people who are caged for victimless crimes.
Amerika has the highest incarcerated population AND percentage in …..the…..entire…..world.
.
Courtesy of the same entitiy running the government schools.

Cherokee

March 11th, 2013
8:02 am

“If these words came from Obama or a Democrat ”

How true. Just like the ACA, which was largely proposed and supported by conservatives; until, that is, Obama adopted it. Then it became evil socialism.

As someone else said, the public schools on the whole actually do pretty well. Given the problems that kids face at home today, and the influences of the society, public schools do amazing things.

But this is more of the same from conservatives – starve the schools of necessary funding, then criticize them for failure to do their job.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
8:24 am

“How true. Just like the ACA, which was largely proposed and supported by conservatives; until, that is, Obama adopted it.”

Define how a few cherry-picked “conservatives” equates to “largely supported”, Cherokee.

MANGLER

March 11th, 2013
8:29 am

Where did the whole “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” GOP mantra go with the school choice argument? You don’t want to give poor or middle class families minimum wage pay hikes, assistance with health care or food costs, unemployment benefits, or a lower tax threshold, but you’re arguing that they should get public subsidies towards private education?
Private school costs more than public school. What struggling family is going to be able to pay the cost overruns for private schools? What companies that operate these private schools are you in bed with?
By the way – if public schools were able to spend as much per pupil as private schools do, then maybe your choice argument wouldn’t exist.

JDW

March 11th, 2013
8:31 am

@Tibeirus…”Define how a few cherry-picked “conservatives” equates to “largely supported”, Cherokee.”

The Heritage Foundation, 20+ US Senators, a Republican introduced bill introduced in the Senate and a bill signed by a Republican Governor is not a few “cherry-picked conservatives”…it is a conservative conceived and widely support initiative.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
8:32 am

And to the article, I’m not sure that expanding the meaning whereby financial assistance is given will do the trick and help some middle-class families. Probably will, and I’m all for it. But it might also open up the usual preferences to higher income families by having the state say, “Well, we DID consider their income level”, and simply ignore it.

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

March 11th, 2013
8:32 am

Its a scam plain and simple.

A subsidy for rich kids private school education.

Paid for by the Georgia taxpayer.

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

March 11th, 2013
8:35 am

And if you think that money isnt getting ear marked for specific students.

Ive got some oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell you next.

Republicans are all for giveaways and mooching.

So long as its one particular group at the trough.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
8:36 am

The Heritage Foundation is not an elected body, JDW, 20 Senators out of a maximum (at any given time) of 60 – and usually less), anybody can introduce a bill without significant sponsorship, and the GOP governor you love to cite ran a state with 90+% of his legislature on the moonbat Democrat side.

Cherry-picked in ANY definition.

Another epic fail for you, and so early in the morning, too.

JDW

March 11th, 2013
8:43 am

@Tiberius…”Cherry-picked in ANY definition”

Cherry picked in Tiberiusville maybe…over here in the real world when more than 50% of your caucus including the Minority Leader introduces a bill using a plan put forth by maybe the most influential conservative think tank…that’s wide support.

td

March 11th, 2013
8:44 am

Aynie Sue

March 11th, 2013
6:22 am

Aesop’s right! All the hassle about “school choice” and tax-credit scholarships is a waste of time. The attention and resources should be placed on better education for all students by improving public schools..

Public schools are not the problem, the problem is parents. Education begins and ends at home. Non teacher union funded, study after study shows that when a parent is involved in the educational process of their children, sets high expectations and enforces the expectations then those are the children that excel. When parents do not then those children are at risk of not being successful.

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

March 11th, 2013
8:45 am

Oddly, though, the law contained no means-testing for recipients, and it quickly became obvious why. The program was a scam. Once it was passed, supporters started openly pitching the program as a means for affluent parents of children already in private school to arrange a state tax subsidy.

- Jay Bookman

Jay pretty much nailed this one awhile back.

td

March 11th, 2013
8:48 am

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

March 11th, 2013
8:32 am

Its a scam plain and simple.

A subsidy for rich kids private school education.

Paid for by the Georgia taxpayer.

The rich have been sending their children to private schools for years and will continue to do so no matter if there is a tax break or not. This is a scheme for the upper and middle class parents to be able to send their children to private school.

d

March 11th, 2013
8:48 am

Parents have lots of choice already – charter, private, parochial, home schooling, public….. Why do you keep insisting that we have to pay for all choice? Our state constitution guarantees the right to an adequate public education, and frankly, I think the entire general assembly needs to be brought up on charges for not upholding the state constitution. You want the other choices, fine…. give up the daily Starbucks, designer jeans, new iPhone every 6 months and pay for it.

Aquagirl

March 11th, 2013
8:48 am

Cherry-picked in ANY definition.

If Tiberius isn’t on board all those little people don’t matter.

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

March 11th, 2013
8:55 am

Parents have lots of choice already – charter, private, parochial, home schooling, public…..

Ive never understood this either.

If you want your child to go to private school then pay for it yourself.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
9:01 am

“If you want your child to go to private school then pay for it yourself.”

If you don’t send your kid to public school, maybe you shouldn’t have to pay their freight.

independent thinker

March 11th, 2013
9:08 am

So Tadeus Winklebean IV needs for Georgians to pay for his private school education because his dad sent him to a public school where he gets picked on by all those minority tough guys.I wonder if he would have the same problem in the army?

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
9:10 am

“I wonder if he would have the same problem in the army?”

As if you’d know what the Army was like . . . .

UIC

March 11th, 2013
9:31 am

9:01AM
“If you don’t send your kid to public school, maybe you shouldn’t have to pay their freight.”

No problem. And, if you thought it was an idiotic mistake to spend $2T and get 4400 kids killed in Iraq, you shouldn’t have to pay that freight. And if you thought it was stupid to be giving tax cuts while the country still had a debt to pay, you shouldn’t have to pay for the interest we’ve run up on the increasing debt.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 11th, 2013
9:42 am

Public schools are not the problem, the problem is parents. Education begins and ends at home. Non teacher union funded, study after study shows that when a parent is involved in the educational process of their children, sets high expectations and enforces the expectations then those are the children that excel. When parents do not then those children are at risk of not being successful.

To an extent. You apply yourself to your child’s education and set the bar high for them, but, then they go join a giant group of mediocres for which the curriculum is largely designed for. Not to mention all of the state propaganda that wastes so much of their time and cheats them out of a serious and worthwhile education.

chees – Did you go to public school?

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 11th, 2013
9:43 am

Record 47,791,996 Americans on food stamps…

We’re #1!

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
9:46 am

“And, if you thought it was an idiotic mistake to spend $2T and get 4400 kids killed in Iraq, you shouldn’t have to pay that freight.”

Phony argument, UIC.

I have no problem with society paying for public schools. My issue is with people who want to keep what others are paying for an inferior product, while not using that product. Why can’t the people who choose to send their kids to private schools at least be able to take out that which they’ve been forced to pay in for the same purpose, just at a different location?

Real Athens

March 11th, 2013
9:46 am

“Somehow, when you don’t help only poor people, by default you’re [allegedly] benefiting extremely rich people,” he said. “That’s not true.”

Yep, because since time immemorial, NOBODY suffers like the rich.

Kyle, Georgia’s specialty is marching backward.

Those “who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Haven’t we been here before?

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/scholarship-funds-policies-under-fire/nQtxK/

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
9:59 am

“Yep, because since time immemorial, NOBODY suffers like the rich.”

Maybe if people kept coveting what you earned ad nauseum, Real Athens, you’d consider it suffering, too.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
10:03 am

And why wouldn’t intelligent parents want to take their kids out of public schools when they are run by the geniuses highlighted in this column?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will030913.php3#.UT3xsDdFDE5

Rafe Hollister preparing for an Obamanist America

March 11th, 2013
10:06 am

It seem to me to be, the old give them fish sticks or teach them to fish argument.

Public schools seem to be the fish stick providers, and some low income and middle income folks know that, and prefer to try and do a little better. They want their children to learn to fish and need a little assistance with paying for the fishing license. It is their tax money contributed involuntarily and they should be able to have some input into how their children access it, by eating fish sticks or learning to fish.

If you have the access to the money, and willing to come up with the remainder, and you are unhappy with the private school you selected, you are free to move the child and try another school. Fit the school to the way your child learns. If your child goes to public school often it is one size fits all, fish sticks everyday.

Parents should be in charge of how their children learn and what they learn, not the government.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 11th, 2013
10:08 am

I used to look forward to fish stick Fridays, Rafe, back when fish sticks actually had quality fish in them. :D

Dusty

March 11th, 2013
10:08 am

UIC 9:31

Please don’t start the anti-war mantra in the beginning of an educational discussion. The president and the Congress of the USA all approved the Iraq War and thought it the best protection for our future. It was. You disgrace those who died fighting for our country.

As to the subject de jour, I can only “Forget it!” Since this middle class family of mine managed to send our five children to public school and college and obtain seven college degrees without seeking help from anyone, I still say “Do it yourself” as far as you can. For us, everybody pitched in and it was a joint effort with the children doing their part with parental support.

If you have a family, take care of it! You brought ‘em here. They are YOURS. That does not cancel your outreach to others. It just shows independence, a value we are about to lose.

Rafe Hollister preparing for an Obamanist America

March 11th, 2013
10:11 am

Saw this old nostrum yesterday. People who want to keep as much of what they earn as possible are considered selfish, but folks who want to use the government to take away your money, that you earned are never considered selfish, why is that?

td

March 11th, 2013
10:13 am

Aesop’s Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 11th, 2013
9:42 am

“To an extent. You apply yourself to your child’s education and set the bar high for them, but, then they go join a giant group of mediocres for which the curriculum is largely designed for.”

There is less then 10% of the education that is more then “mediocres” and NO middle class parent is going to be able to afford these schools no matter what the tax break. It is a fools dream to think a Charter school is going to magically make their children smarter. Being smart is about hard work and only a parent can instill that work ethic into a child.