For pub­lic school­teach­ers, voucher bat­tle isn’t over

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - YARBROUGH DEAR PUB­LIC SCHOOL­TEACH­ERS:

For once, the good guys (that would be you) won. But save the high-fives. This fight is far from over.

I am talk­ing about the failed at­tempt to ram a pri­vate school voucher bill through this ses­sion of the Gen­eral Assem­bly. It was just the lat­est at­tempt by a bunch of Kool-Aid drink­ing Re­pub­li­cans to take our tax dol­lars and give ad­van­tage to pri­vate schools. The pro­po­nents call this an Ed­u­ca­tion Sav­ings Ac­count. I call it an in­sult to you, the job you do and the con­di­tions under which you do it. You have been in­sulted many times be­fore. You have been fur­loughed. One leg­is­la­tor who sug­gested send­ing you home with­out pay was soon pho­tographed in his tuxedo, slurp­ing an adult bev­er­age at a hoity-toity cock­tail party, giv­ing new mean­ing to the term, “Let ‘em eat cake (or sip mar­ti­nis”).

Bonus money promised to you by Gov. Nathan Deal in many cases didn’t get to your pockets. The state said those of you who be­came Na­tional Board Cer­ti­fied would re­ceive a 10% stipend only to have George E. Per­due take it away from you some­where about the time he was getting a sweet­heart real es­tate deal in mid­dle Georgia tax-free.

Now comes your new Lt. Gov. Ge­off Dun­can. He tasked new­bie Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cum­ming, who had all of 30 days in of­fice to front the voucher bill. That was like send­ing Elmer Fudd to the gun­fight at the O.K. Cor­ral.

The bill was de­feated in the state Se­nate by a vote of 28-25. Seven Repub­li­can senators voted against the bill and, unlike Dolezal, they come with strong leg­isla­tive cre­den­tials. Butch Miller of Gainesville, pres­i­dent pro tem­pore of the Se­nate; Jack Hillof Rei­dsville, chair­man of Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions; Lind­say Tip­pins of Ma­ri­etta, chair­man of Se­nate Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and one of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion’s best friends; Tyler Harper of Ocilla, chair­man of the Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee with whom I served on the Gover­nor’s Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form Com­mis­sion; Greg Kirk of Amer­i­cus, chair­man of State and Lo­cal Govern­ment; Blake El­lis of Val­dosta, a mem­ber of the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, another good friend of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and Dean Burke of Bain­bridge, vice chair­man of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. Elmer Fudd was over­matched.

The voucher crowd then tried to sneak it through the House. That, too, failed, and mer­ci­fully the ses­sion ended. But this voucher scheme will be back next year with a new sense of ur­gency. The Repub­li­can majority in the Leg­is­la­ture is hem­or­rhag­ing mem­bers and may be in their last gasp as the majority party be­fore loony-left Democrats take over.

Dis­man­tling pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion is very im­por­tant to these vac­u­ous ide­o­logues. Some pro­po­nents say if they are send­ing their kids to pri­vate schools, why should they be pay­ing for pub­lic schools? If I don’t drive in Ver­mont, why should my fed­eral tax dol­lars go to their highways?

They claim the voucher scheme is rev­enue neu­tral. It isn’t. Voucher dol­lars would be sub­tracted from your dis­trict’s funding for­mula. They claim they would cap the num­ber of stu­dents who could par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram. This is the same crowd that swore they would cap in­come tax cred­its for do­na­tions to stu­dent schol­ar­ship or­ga­ni­za­tions at $50 mil­lion and then raised it to $100 mil­lion.

Unlike you, pub­lic school­teach­ers, who are mea­sured seven-ways-from-Sun­day, there is no re­quire­ment to eval­u­ate voucher pro­grams. We are sup­posed to take the voucher crowd’s word for it. The names of schools the voucher stu­dents at­tend are not made pub­lic. You can smell the pos­si­bil­ity of fraud a mile away.

Check out what is hap­pen­ing in Ari­zona, which pro­po­nents like to use as a model for their voucher scheme. Vot­ers re­jected an ex­pan­sion of the pro­gram amid con­cerns about mis­use of funds.

I am sure the politi­cians will remind you of the $3,000 raise you got this year. I would remind them that you didn’t get any­thing you don’t de­serve, par­tic­u­larly with them re­mind­ing the world that you are “fail­ing” our kids.

What is fail­ing is that no one will ad­mit it’s all about the money. Bil­lions of dol­lars con­trolled by out­side pri­vate op­er­a­tors. Deep­pock­eted spe­cial in­ter­est groups will­ing and able to make the kind of cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions you can’t make.

You won this time around, pub­lic school­teach­ers, but you may be sure the voucher crowd will be back next year talk­ing about you and your fail­ing schools. I plan to be there, too. Doing bat­tle with the Elmer Fudds of the world gives my life mean­ing.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at [email protected] dick­yarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta GA 31139; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/

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Yarbrough

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