HB 243: A Solid School Choice Bill

With School Choice Week recently ending, it’s fitting that Georgia have HB243, also known as Education Savings Accounts (ESA), drop last week. ESA is a solid school choice bill that empowers parents to make the right choice for their child. Understanding that public school is not always the right answer, ESA will assist parents seeking to place their child in the best learning environment.

House Bill 243, sponsored by Representative Mark Hamilton, allows state money allotted for children enrolled in Georgia’s K-12 program to be spent on alternative educational avenues. Representative Hamilton of Forsyth County discussed the bill with the AJC

“We have several very highly rated private schools in Forsyth County,” says state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming. “Yet, Forsyth County … is scholastically one of the top-achieving school systems. So why do parents choose to spend money to put them in (private schools)? Because they made the choice. They’re involved in their kids’ education, and they see things that those private schools offer that the public system doesn’t.

“I can say the same thing about home school. I know parents in Forsyth County that home school. Once again, we’ve got one of the finest school systems in the state, in the Southeast, and yet they’ve chosen to home school. So to me (the desire for choice) is not an indication” of whether the schools are good or bad.

Opponents worry the Educations Savings Accounts bill would lead to a large number of students leaving the public school system. ESA caps usage at 0.5 percent of the total student population for the first year and caps usage at 1 percent thereafter. According to the AJC, the cap is estimated at approximately 8,500 students and 17,000 students, respectively.

Funding for the ESA will come directly from the state. School districts will keep federal money and money raised from property taxes. House Bill 243 is solid.

 

17 comments

  1. saltycracker says:

    With the local/state/Fed money shell game, not sure how the taxpayer is in a zero sum game in their school choice but paying a bit more for this.

      • androidguybill says:

        @John and @salty:

        1. Those supporting school choice should be willing to pay more for it. Those opposing school choice want us to pay more anyway.

        2. Provide real school reform, including choice, and more people will be willing to pay more. A lot of people oppose the “public education as social welfare/social engineering” thing and are loathe to pay for it. Show that you are actually willing to prioritize improved performance and folks will support the tax and spending increases.

  2. chefdavid says:

    Love this bill. I know for a fact it is cheaper to educate a child at Chattanooga Christian than it is at Dade County. Oviously throwing money at the problem hasn’t helped. Maybe if they had to be competitive with other sources. It might make it a better system. Also, lower public population in the school systems = the need for less infrastructure, teachers, buses, etc. This might actually make my property taxes go down instead of taking away my subway sandwhich money.

    • androidguybill says:

      “I know for a fact it is cheaper to educate a child at Chattanooga Christian than it is at Dade County. Oviously throwing money at the problem hasn’t helped. Maybe if they had to be competitive with other sources. It might make it a better system. Also, lower public population in the school systems = the need for less infrastructure, teachers, buses, etc. ”

      I tend to think that providing actual school choice – and having a large portion of the population participate in a choice system – would be costly to implement and not necessarily cheaper to maintain. I just happen to believe that it is worth the extra money.

    • Charlie says:

      A long time ago in another lifetime of mine I was briefly a candidate for public office. I met with all three school superintendents in the counties covering the district. The school super from my own county was a man I had known and had/have a lot of respect for. I asked him to help me out with understanding why public schools spent so much money per student when many private schools cost less per student in tuition than many of our public schools were spending.

      He told me he would be happy to openly compete with any private school, and accept the same funding. He just wanted the ability to pick and choose his students, just like they did.

      He wouldn’t have to deal with learning disabled students and their federally mandated programs. He would only have to deal with parents who agreed to the schools terms and conditions. He could remove disruptive students at will. None of his kids would be coming to school hungry. Those with behavioral disorders could quickly be removed without tying up the schools administrators and counselors.

      He was more than happy to compete on free market terms. He just wanted to be able to participate in the free market too if he was going to compete on the same terms and have the same resources.

      I remain a strong advocate of school choice. I won’t make public schools the enemy in doing so, nor pretend that we haven’t tasked them with trying to solve many of society’s problems well beyond education of our children, nor trash them for not being able to fix them with the monies they are allotted.

      • androidguybill says:

        “He would only have to deal with parents who agreed to the schools terms and conditions.”

        This was once the case for public schools also. It needs to be the case again.

        • Dr. Monica Henson says:

          Wow. You would penalize the child for the sins/sorriness of the parent? For children in poverty, a decent education is literally a lifeline.

    • Will Durant says:

      As long as the public school is required to take all comers including special needs kids, etc., then the private school will always be able to skim the cream. You are therefore comparing apples to oranges. Programs like this to utilize government money to unbalance it even more are only going to be utilizing more tax dollars to maintain separate but unequal into the future. Private schools should operate on private money only.

      • blakeage80 says:

        When a parent decides to send a child to a private school or alternatively educate them, they should be able to recover their dollars that would have been sent to the public school in their district and use it to fund their child’s education. These programs don’t use ‘government money’ (as if it just magically appears or that the taxpayers didn’t earn it). They use money taken from tax payers, individuals. It’s not so much that there are publicly funded schools as the fact that citizens that don’t want their kids there have to pay for them and try to fund some other means of educating their child.

        • Will Durant says:

          Yes and there are many of us paying taxes for education purposes that have NO children in school. So what? Taxes for public education have been the norm for a long time. What has not been the norm until recent years is the mandate to public schools to attempt to educate those with special needs. The real debate on what to do with public funds should be what is best to do with those with special needs on a case by case basis, not letting the haves take their money out of the system leaving only the have nots within it. If we are going to have separate but unequal then lets have special schools for special needs.

  3. FranInAtlanta says:

    First, absolute loud and positive NO to non-accredited schools or home schools. Everyone knows of some home schooled kid who wasn’t really schooled and I wonder about some private schools.
    Second, public schools should offer high quality education. I don’t have the solution to their having to take those who detract from others being able to learn, but we need to work toward one.

    • Dr. Monica Henson says:

      Most homeschool families I know do an outstanding job with their children’s educations. I’ve known of three situations in my nearly thirty years in public education where families used a claim of homeschooling to enable “slave labor” by their kids to help staff the family in-home daycare business, use a nephew to work in the family construction business, and do yard work & home improvements while Dad was traveling on business. Accreditation of a private school provides some “quality control.”

    • John Konop says:

      In Cherokee county we have an on line home school option for public school students. We also set it up so that students can take some classes in high school and some on line based on needs….ie job hours, subject needs…..This was a concept I brought to our school board chairman Janet Reed she did an excellent job of gathering input from home school parents and combining it with policy the meets state requirements…We also have charter schools like Dr. Monica Henson has….that do similar concepts….

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