Poll Shows Public Support For Education Savings Accounts

This week’s Courier Herald column:

On March 5th, the day before “Crossover Day” when a bill must pass either the Georgia House or Senate to be considered for final passage this year, the Senate failed to pass a bill creating Education Scholarship Accounts, or ESAs, for students currently attending Georgia public schools.  The Senate Bill 173 garnered 25 votes in favor, but needed 29 votes to pass.

Democrats made voting against the bill a caucus position. The eleven sponsors of the bill, led by Senator Greg Dolezal of Cumming are all Republican.  On the final vote, however, Senate Republican leaders balked, siding with the Democratic caucus to stall the bill.

It is unseemly to talk about allowing Georgia’s children to have the best opportunity by granting them additional education choices in partisan terms, but here we are.  The money and grassroots activities granted to Democrats by teachers’ unions and associations demand unwavering support of the status quo, as well as a constant demand for “more”.

Anyone wishing to challenge this status quo must face not only well orchestrated public relations campaigns by institutions of educational bureaucracy, but their willing and ready allies in the press.  Note that most news stories about this bill are about robbing public schools of funding.

The facts on funding in Georgia are clear.  Our public schools have never received as much money per pupil. QBE is fully funded. Teachers are getting an additional step raise this year, with the promise for even more next year.  “More” has been addressed year after year, but for the bureaucracy, it will never be enough.  Students, meanwhile, remain trapped in schools that do not allow them to unlock their full potential.

ESA’s allow the state portion of education funding for public school students to become a scholarship to be used for education expenses outside the school of their assigned zip code. These would be available for up to .5% of students per year, with a cap of 5% of Georgia’s students.  Priority would be granted for those in low income homes, students who are being bullied, students with disabilities, and students in military families. 

The claim that this reduces funding for public schools is a farce.  Local systems retain all education funds from property and sales taxes within the local system.  As a result, any local system that loses a student via the ESA program has more money to spend for each remaining student.  Meanwhile, charities or parents must bring additional dollars in to cover the remaining cost to educate each ESA student, increasing overall education spending. 

It remains curious to watch the division within the GOP on this issue, given that they claim to be the party of opportunity over government central planning.  It becomes less clear why there is a split when public opinion polls are considered.

A poll released Monday by GeorgiaCAN, an education advocacy group, shows that 70% of Georgians favor ESA’s under a plan similar to SB 173.  Further, they are overwhelmingly supportive of assisting special student populations such as students with learning disabilities (89% support), children within the foster care system (87% support), Children in low income families (85% support), children of active duty military (84% support), or those who are bullied (76% support). 

Curious to those falling in line to the caucus position, 75% of Democrats favor this program, indicating it could be an issue for Republicans to take back seats lost in the 2018 elections.  70% of Republicans polled favor the program, while 59% of independents support ESA’s.

The issue won’t be going away so legislators of both parties have a choice.  They can cede to educational bureaucrats protecting their turf, or they can follow the will of their constituents and allow each Georgia child the maximum number of choices to unlock their own personal potential.

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Will DurantchefdavidbethebalanceMidGaRetiree Recent comment authors
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MidGaRetiree
MidGaRetiree

I followed this bill with interest because I have family members that are educators. Sadly, some of them “towed the line” dictated by the “well orchestrated public relations campaigns by institutions of educational bureaucracy, but their willing and ready allies in the press.” I think that those Republicans that voted against this bill are afraid that they will join their colleagues that were defeated in 2018 and don’t want to make this vote an additional issue against them in future campaigns. In summary, votes against the bill are all about trying to hang on to their seat in the legislature.… Read more »

bethebalance
bethebalance

Curious. Of course, technically, it does reduce the gross amounts of funds to a district on the downstream end of a student leaving with his/her state money with him, even if while simultaneously increasing per capita funding available to the district. If enough students from a school or district get up and go, there would be some attrition within schools, and a need to adjust resources, on the school level and maybe the district level. Are the choices on where the scholarship can be applied limited? I.e. does it have to be in the same district? Also, I imagine the… Read more »

chefdavid
chefdavid

I am all for this. Some of us only have one school in our county. At one time it was cheaper to send a kid to Chattanooga Christian than the amount we spent per student. I send my daughter to private school. It would be nice if that portion of state money followed her. I didn’t want her to just get a C education but a school that prepared her for college. I have nothing against public education. I graduated from a great one.

Will Durant
Will Durant

500 randomly selected “likely voters” (51% mobile, 49% land), no cross tabs, not noted whether live or Memorex, in a poll conducted by Baselice and Associates of Austin, TX. “Through an Education Scholarship Account or ESA program, parents can sign up to have their child’s education funding deposited into an account that they can use to pay for a variety of state-approved schools, courses, programs and services, including private school tuition, online courses, tutoring, and special education services. Knowing this, do you favor or oppose an ESA program?” Nice wordsmithing too! Let me try. Do you want a portion of… Read more »

chefdavid
chefdavid

You got a link to the poll? I can’t find it anywhere. Thanks in advance.

Will Durant
Will Durant

https://gacan.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2019/03/Georgia-Voter-Survey-memo-March19.pdf

The streetview on Google has me wondering if their name should be Baselice and Associate.