Be the advocates your children need you to be.

Once again we find ourselves in a fight to defeat a voucher bill that is being touted as the cure for accessing high student achievement for all students in our public schools, particularly those students in schools that have been deemed as the “bottom 25%” in student performance. I could go down a rabbit hole talking about the challenges many of these students face when they come into your systems, but you already know that. I could also talk about the anger I feel knowing this voucher, and those that have come before, are not really about the work educators are doing in your classrooms or the performance of our students; it is really just about money. It is a use of tax payer dollars to fund private schools with no accountability to the tax payer. 

I hope you have been watching the actions of the legislators that represent you closely. More than that, I hope you have spoken with your legislators and talked with them about your system’s successes and failures, goals and challenges, and most importantly your focus on EVERY child. I hope you have shared with them your strategic plans you developed with your stakeholders that included parents, students, teachers, administrators, and the larger stakeholder community; strategic plans that you have aligned to the state’s curriculum requirements while maintaining your local beliefs. These vouchers would go to private schools that have no restrictions on their curriculum, in fact, parents have no way of knowing what they will be teaching. If you live in a rural area, don’t let them convince you that it won’t hurt you because you don’t have a private school in your district; many rural areas in other states where the voucher was successful have seen private school open up seemingly overnight. 

Additionally, ask them how they plan to assess the success of the vouchers in helping students be successful in school. Studies have shown that in Indiana and Ohio, big voucher states, vouchers for private schools caused learning loss worse than what was seen coming out of COVID. In Louisiana voucher learning loss was even worse than the loss from Hurricane Katrina. These losses were especially severe for students who were already in the lowest percentiles of learning. Here’s the thing, IF these students they profess the vouchers would serve are admitted into a private school, we would have no way of knowing whether they are doing a better job than public school because they are not being held accountable for the outcomes. How do we even know they are doing better now? 

The myth that these vouchers will help public school students in schools ranking in the lowest 25% according to performance attend private schools is simply NOT TRUE. In states that have approved vouchers to a limited group, year after year that group grows. That myth goes on to claim all students are accepted into private schools, again, NOT TRUE. Vouchers are PRIVATE SCHOOL CHOICE. Private schools choose who they will allow to attend their schools, and they don’t have to explain to anyone why they were denied.

The requirement on public school board members regarding fiscal responsibility requires you to spend hours and hours hearing from DOE about your fiduciary responsibility, and to be transparent with the tax payers regarding your budgets. You have budget hearings, report revenue and expenditures, and have that information posted on several websites. Even school district employees’ salaries are posted on a public site. That same fiscal responsibility and transparency you are held to by the state legislature and tax payers in the state of Georgia and your local communities will not apply to the private schools. 

Included in this article is an infographic for your use as you speak with your legislators and as you educate your stakeholders about vouchers. Ask your legislators to support their communities, the people who voted for them and not the special interest groups funding this push who have probably never visited your community. And, ask your community stakeholders to reach out to the legislators and ask them to VOTE NO to PRIVATE SCHOOL CHOICE: VOUCHERS!

Be the advocates your children need you to be.

Author: Valarie Wilson
Executive Director
Georgia School Boards Association