Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

APS indictments: What more proof do Georgia’s lawmakers need that school choice must expand?

The cheating scandal at Atlanta Public Schools led Friday to the place many of us believed it would and should: indictments for 35 administrators and teachers implicated in the scandal. If this seems too harsh a step, take some time to re-familiarize yourself with the details of the case. The answer-changing parties at which teachers made sure their students made the grade; the spy-novel-worthy actions certain APS employees took to make sure they evaded test-security measures; administrators’ ignoring and covering up complaints about potential cheating — the story is astoundingly shameful.

But don’t forget that a similar pattern of cheating was found hundreds of miles away in Dougherty County, while incompetent school boards in Clayton and DeKalb counties have brought their systems to the brink of losing accreditation. (Atlanta’s own board nearly did the same in the wake of the cheating scandal.) Meanwhile, across the state, many schools and school systems commit the more …

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Morehead eyes private money to sustain UGA’s rise

In January, as the University of Georgia was wrapping up the search for its new president, I came across an open letter former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote to the people of Purdue University, whose presidency he had just assumed.

The letter made so many good points about the role and future of higher education that I considered writing a column about it, along the lines of: “I don’t know who the next president of UGA should be, but he or she should think like this.” Before I did, UGA announced its next president. And he was thinking about Daniels’ letter, too.

In particular, Jere Morehead noticed this part of the missive:

“We should all remind ourselves every day that the dollars we are privileged to spend come, for the most part, from either a family or a taxpayer. We measure many activities by FTEs, full-time equivalents; we should likewise see every $10,000 we spend as an ‘STE,’ a student tuition equivalent. Any unnecessary expenditure of that amount could …

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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 …

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School choice: We can’t help the poor by helping only them

Opponents of school choice measures such as vouchers or tax-credit scholarships love to do a little two-step.

First, they insist choice measures be limited only to low-income families — for the sake of being “fair.” Then, they note the tuition charged by existing private schools and say these families couldn’t possibly make up the difference between those prices and the value of the voucher or scholarship, and thus we might as well scrap the choice measures.

With that, they sit back and fold their arms, confident they’ve done something other than prove the basic laws of economics apply to education.

Before we burst their bubble, let’s take a step back.

The goal of anyone interested in education should be to see that all children attend quality schools. Right?

In a triumph of hope over experience, choice opponents think this can be accomplished through existing public schools alone. If only we spend more and more (and more) money on them.

The rest of us understand the public …

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Welcome to Atlanta, Mr. President. Now about pre-k . . .

President Barack Obama is expected in Atlanta today, to pitch a problem to a solution.

No, I don’t have that backward.

The president’s planned visit today to a Decatur pre-k school comes on the heels of his lauding Georgia’s preschool program during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. He wants to use it as a model for a federal effort “to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.”

While I join Obama in applauding educational innovation in the states, I can think only of reasons a federal preschool program is a bad idea. Not least is the fact that the existing federal preschool program, Head Start, has been declared a failure by the very agency that administers it.

Head Start, a program for low-income children, has been around since 1965. But three years ago, after four and a half decades and $166 billion spent on the program, the Department of Health and Human Services concluded first-graders who had been in Head Start held virtually …

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One message minority voters already sent Georgia’s GOP

The GOP’s post-election listening tour comes to Atlanta today, with a twist.

Reince Preibus, the recently re-elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, is scheduled to meet this afternoon with a couple of dozen black Republicans in an “engagement and listening session” aimed at widening the GOP’s appeal. It’s an imperative bit of outreach for Georgia Republicans — the like of which the state party, despite undeniable demographic trends away from its nearly all-white voting base, has done dangerously little.

No doubt, any number of ideas will be discussed during this session. But there’s one policy that is a color-blindingly obvious necessity for any serious attempt to win over minority voters: school choice.

Just a week ago, hundreds of students and their parents and teachers braved the cold for the annual school-choice rally on the Capitol steps. As is the case every year, the majority of these students were not white.

And almost all of them will be …

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In defense of Georgia’s tax-credit scholarships

This month the Wingfield household, like millions of others across America, has received a growing number of tax documents. Among them are forms certifying that we gave $50 to this charity or $100 to that one, allowing us to reduce what we owe in taxes.

What neither we nor the IRS will receive is official documentation that our church converted X number of non-believers into Christians, or that a charity we supported decreased poverty or sexual exploitation by a quantifiable amount. Or that everyone who benefited from our donations earned less than a certain amount of income.

Yet, similar bits of data are being requested of one of the kinds of non-profits we could have supported but didn’t: Georgia’s student scholarship organizations.

These SSOs accept donations from Georgia taxpayers, who can then reduce their state income taxes by an equal amount — up to a limit for all donors of about $50 million per year, or one-quarter of 1 percent of all revenues the state expects to …

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UGA makes a good choice for its next president

After the passing of journalism professor Conrad Fink a year ago, there’s no one at the University of Georgia I know better than Jere Morehead. I think he’s a terrific choice to be the university’s next president.

Morehead was the head of the Honors and Foundation Fellows programs for my last two years as a student in them (fall 1999 to spring 2001). He not only turned around — quickly and with little fuss — these programs which had been divided and in somewhat of a state of disarray after a breakdown in leadership the year before he took them over. He also built lasting relationships with the students he advised: I’ve lost count of the number of my classmates’ weddings where I’ve seen him in attendance. I do know the most recent one was in December, more than a decade after our mutual friend, the groom, had graduated. As a former professor, he has also, to my knowledge, been a good and respected friend of UGA’s faculty.

Morehead has built these relationships by being good at …

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Charter schools amendment points the way for Georgia GOP

Republicans are doing some soul-searching after losing the presidential election and some winnable U.S. Senate contests. The Georgia GOP should be similarly self-reflective after delivering the second-smallest margin among states won by Mitt Romney.

The same demographic trends Romney failed to overcome are increasingly apparent in Georgia. Republicans here must learn to win over voters they typically haven’t attracted. Fortunately for them, Tuesday also offered a template for doing so: the successful charter schools amendment.

The referendum to affirm a state role in creating these public schools was passed in a Republican-dominated Legislature with crucial, but limited, Democratic support; was endorsed by our Republican governor; was opposed by the state Democratic Party; drew much-scrutinized financial support from wealthy Republicans outside Georgia; and was slammed in a radio ad by a civil-rights icon, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, as a precursor to resegregation.

Yet in …

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Amendment One: A chance at a choice for students who today have neither

No one among us, if faced with a persistent disease and a physician who’d failed to cure it, would be content to continue consulting only that doctor — and, especially, to be told we could not seek a second opinion.

None of us believe we could live in a place with only one grocery store, selling only junk food, and be expected to maintain good health.

Nobody I know would want to learn a trade but have the opportunity to work for only one employer.

And I’m certain no American would stand for living in a country where just one name, the same name, appeared on the ballot year after year.

Yet that’s exactly the situation we expect thousands of students, parents and even teachers in Georgia to accept. We can take one small but important step toward changing that by approving Amendment One and increasing their educational choices.

This amendment, which would affirm the state’s role in creating public charter schools, is neither a magic potion nor an indictment of all …

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