This op-ed was originally published in the Savannah Morning News on March 26th. Check out the original post here.
By Randy Hicks
Once again, it’s an election year. And as in the past, we’ll probably hear a lot of talk about the state of education in Georgia. But what does it really mean to have an excellent education for K-12 students? What constitutes real education reform that will prepare Georgia’s children for the jobs of the future and bring the benefits of competition to education?
Most basically, it’s a mistake to measure the quality of education by the amount spent on education. Instead, the quality of education must be measured by results. And that starts with two goals: First, finding the right school setting for each child. Two, ensuring that parents can take advantage of choice and place their child in that setting.
Every child is different. That’s why families should have a variety of educational options for their child. The goal of real education reform—of enhancing choice in education—is to ensure that families have high-quality options. Of course, this includes traditional public schools, but it also includes public charter schools (where Georgia’s programs are growing in popularity); private schools (including for children with special needs and those who benefit from the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship program); online education, homeschooling, and hybrid education options. Parents can then select the option or options that help their child learn and grow the best.
Fortunately, Georgians already favor choice in education. Now, as the campaign season is intensifying, the Legislature can prove their dedication to our kids by taking real steps towards education reform this year. For instance, lawmakers can raise the arbitrary cap on the tax credit scholarship program, as two bills propose to do. More parents want these scholarships, and more people want to give to make them a reality for Georgia’s children. The Legislature shouldn’t stand in the way. Special needs children, children with disabilities, and others can benefit from expanded scholarship programs based on choice.
As the legislative session winds down and the campaign season begins, I hope that voters will take the time to inform themselves on education issues and ask the candidates where they stand and why, rather than simply being satisfied with proposals for higher spending for public K-12 schools. A vibrant education system in Georgia will include high-performing public schools all across the state, but it will include independent schools as well. Each sector should be committed to excellence, and parents should have the option of choosing the educational settings that are right for their child.
Seven years ago, Gov. Nathan Deal called on Georgians to “be frugal and wise. Let us restore the confidence of our citizens in a government that is limited and efficient.” His words ring true with a spirit of promoting true education reform which contributes to both of the Governor’s goals – frugality and efficiency. Public education, too, will benefit from the competition that true choice brings, and the results will benefit both Georgia’s children and Georgia’s taxpayers. The competition that comes from true choice for parents will improve all schools, making education in Georgia not only more frugal and efficient but also much more effective.
And that is the point of true education reform: more choice, and better schools, for everyone. Let’s keep that in mind and keep education reform a priority in this political year.
News | For Immediate Release
April 2, 2018
Georgia Center for Opportunity Lauds Approval of Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion
ATLANTA – On the final day of Georgia’s 2018 legislative session, lawmakers gave final approval to a bill expanding the state’s wildly popular tax credit scholarship program. House Bill 217, championed by State Representative John Carson, lifts the program’s current cap of $58 million to $100 million over a span of ten years.
The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) had been a staunch advocate for the original bill, which first passed in 2009. Since its adoption, the program has increasingly suffered from over-demand, both from donors who were unable to give to the initiative and students who were unable to take advantage of the scholarship due to an arbitrary cap on the program.
GCO President and CEO Randy Hicks applauded lawmakers for taking a “bold stand for Georgia’s students.”
“For too long, too many kids have been waiting in line for the opportunity to attend a school that better fits their needs,” Hicks said. “By passing an expansion of the tax credit scholarship program, the Georgia General Assembly has set a standard of prioritizing students and providing hope to thousands of families for years to come.”
According to state law, the amount given per scholarship must not exceed the average state and local per-pupil expenditures. In 2017, that amount stood at $9,468, though the average scholarship awarded in 2015 was reported to be $3,425.
“By raising the state cap another $42 million, you’re creating a potential situation where over 5,000 families at least can take advantage of this program, though it will likely be much more,” Hicks added. “That’s more than a number, it represents lives that will be changed for the better thanks to the passage of HB 217.”
House Bill 217 now goes to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk for signature.
For more information, contact Christy Riggins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-242-0001.
As children across the state are returning for a new school year, Georgia’s legislators are being featured on digital ads because they voted in favor of school choice.
The Georgia Center for Opportunity released a Legislative Report Card earlier in the summer which assigned letter grades to state lawmakers according to their support for school choice legislation appearing before them during the 2017 session.
Those who have strong records in favor of giving students and families more education options are now the recipients of digital ads thanking them for putting students first. The digital ads are running over the course of the next two weeks within each senators’ and house members’ district.
School choice has proven itself not to be a party issue, as lawmakers from both parties support parental choice options. Those with “A” grades featured in the ads are: John Albers (R-Roswell), Mike Glanton (D- Jonesboro), Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone), Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), Burt Jones (R-Jackson), William Ligon (R-Brunswick), Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), David Shafer (R-Duluth), Jesse Stone (R- Waynesboro), Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park), and Michael Williams (R-Cumming).
Freakonomics is the popular podcast that aims to expose the “hidden side of everything” by applying economics research to everyday realities. In a recent episode, they sought to understand why marriage is on the decline. Their conclusion was staggering: there is a clear link between child poverty and unmarried parents.
“It turns out that poverty and family structure are intertwined in this country,” Professor Melissa Kearney, a University of Maryland researcher, told Freakonomics’ Stephen Dubner. “You can’t be interested in children’s well-being and not look at family structure.”
According to Kearney, only 5 percent of births in the U.S. were to unmarried mothers in 1960. In 2014, that number skyrocketed to 40 percent. Along with it has come clear instances of poverty and signs that children caught in the middle are suffering as a result.
“Research consistently shows that kids who live with two married parents have lower rates of poverty, have higher cognitive test scores in childhood, have fewer behavioral problems,” she said. “They seem to have better health outcomes. They’re less likely to live in poverty when they’re 25. They’re more likely to complete college and they’re less likely to become young, unmarried parents themselves.”
The news revealed by Freakonomics supports years of research by the Georgia Center for Opportunity and others.
GCO President and CEO Randy Hicks says that there is hope of breaking the cycle for children and their parents. In a recent op-ed, he points to what he calls the “success sequence,” a research-backed three-pronged formula for success in America: graduate from high school, get a full-time job (or have a partner who does), and marry before having children.
“For children caught in multi-generational cycles of poverty, a good education can be a stick in the spokes of the poverty cycle that slows it down; for an adult, it’s a job; and for couples, it may be relationship enrichment programs and other supports,” Hicks said.
The Georgia Center for Opportunity offers programs and resources for parents looking to better the legacy of their families. For classes and other information, check out the Healthy Families Initiative.