There was a time when just about every parent in America had a dream regarding their child’s education. Prior to WWII the dream was that their child would graduate from high school. After the war, the GI Bill, helped inspire the idea that your kid would, could, should graduate from college. Today, it seems we have progressed backwards, and just hope they don’t drop out of high school
I wanted to interview Tim Callahan, Director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), to find out what he thought about HB 1133, the bill passed by the Georgia Legislature in 2008, which gave taxpayers (including corporations) a tax credit, up to about $7,500, for contributions to scholarships for private schools. Private school scholarships? Never heard of one, except maybe the $500 one the local civic club has set up. Boy, I bet this kind of tax credit will make private schools scholarship funds take off.
You need to understand this is a tax credit, folks, not a deduction, which means each dollar contributed to the private school is a dollar in taxes that someone else has to pay. That someone else is you and me!
I had previously interviewed Randy Hicks of the Georgia Family Council about this legislation. Randy and GFC think this kind of legislation is just great, and it probably is, but for whom? I don’t think it does anything to make education better in Georgia. I wanted to find out what educators thought about this kind of tax policy and just as I expected, PAGE thinks it is a bad idea.
Tim makes one thing clear: public education in Georgia is underfunded, signficantly so. I am sure a lot of us remember several decades ago when Georgia, under the leadership of Governor Joe Frank Harris, enacted QBE, Quality Basic Education Act. The goal of QBE was to evaluate the needs of our educational system, our public education system, and fund it 100%. The idea back then was probably that Georgia was low in the rankings of states when it came to the funding and quality of public education. Georgia wanted to prepare for the future and passed QBE. And that was the last thought of the future.
QBE has never been properly funded. Education has suffered. We blame the educators for poor results and use the poor results to continue to underfund education. It is a stupid cycle. Groups like the Georgia Family Council are doing everything they can to divert funds from public education to private schools because they, and the interests they represent, send their kids to private schools. They don’t care one iota about public education, which pretty much proves to me that GFC ought to take “Family” out of its name and replace it with “Taxpayer”! They never hesitate to gripe about the quality of our public schools, but they don’t care to fight to improve them. They don’t fight to make the legislature adequately fund QBE. No, they want it to fail or they just don’t care.
Everytime I interview a Republican legislator about education funding, I hear the same old response: we are spending more on education than ever before. So what? I am spending more on gas and food than ever before and I wouldn’t call that progress! The reason we spend more than ever before on education is because we have more students than ever before, but that does not mean we are spending more or spending enough. That is an entirely different question. That is the question that QBE was intended to answer: How much is enough?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not head over heels in love with public education. There are a lot of bad teachers. There are a lot of bad administrators. There is a lot of waste. There is a lot that needs to be done to improve it. My point is that underfunding it is not the answer. Funneling money to private schools is not the answer. Making taxpayers pay to send anyone’s kid to public school violates every conservative principal of government I know of. The people that support such propositions are acting are not conservatives. They don’t have a philosophy of government. All they have is an agenda.