In the 80’s James Coleman and Andrew Greeley argued that private schools were generally better than public schools, offering a superior academic curriculum, requiring students spend more time on homework. Disciplinary problems were noticeably reduced and parental involvement was mandatory.
Subsequently, some educators expanded this idea that most private schools, of any kind, were superior to public schools. It was alleged that public schools, bound by hierarchical regulations, impede progress, transformation and innovation, so the school voucher project became popular in many cities.
What was the voucher project? Parents could use government provided vouchers to pay for superior education in private schools. This plan should produce the kind of progressive transformation education reformers had been trying to achieve for years. It was tried by numerous cities as a means of liberating poor minority children trapped in low scoring urban public schools, however the voucher system did not succeed.
Supporters of the system graduation decreased. Low income children were not rescued from poor, dysfunctional public schools through the voucher system. Scores hovered around 33% in reading and math for all schools with concentrations of poverty.
This year Gov. Nathan Deal proposed expanding Charter schools by the authority of the state or local communities. In reaction to criticism to “No Child Left Behind” he has been requested by teachers “do not ask us to teach the test”. Therefore, he has designed an educational program that replaces the student vouchers with charter schools. It would allow classroom teachers to be partners in this program. He would devise incentives to attract and retain teachers in key disciplines and would allow teachers to promote a bright student up a grade in the middle of the school year. Furthermore, he would offer incentives to college students earning teaching certificates, including forgiving student loans if they will teach in Georgia.
In November, we will vote on this amendment.
There are many questions regarding the Governor’s authority over charter schools. The local communities will have some authority in establishing these schools in their communities, but what is the limit of local authority? How will they be financed and who will monitor them? Will charter schools diminish funds available to the poor public schools in a given community?
I would like to hear your reaction regarding the expansion of the charter school program. For me the jury is still out.
– Rev. Joseph Roberts