Georgia should lead on how to deliver a forward-thinking education

Georgia should lead on how to deliver a forward-thinking education

Media statement, in the news, Georgia news, ga news

Georgia should lead on how to deliver a forward-thinking education

A new Cygnal poll of likely general election voters in Georgia shows a 68% favorability margin for the concept of “school choice,” with 76% of parents in favor. Support levels for education savings accounts sit at 60%, support for refundable education tax credits at 55%, and support for traditional public schools at 65%.

Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “Families want Georgia to be the best place to educate their child, and they want to have say in how that’s done,” said Buzz Brockway, vice president of policy for GCO. “Generally speaking, the poll shows that while a majority of people in the state are satisfied with their child’s education, there is glowing support — at or above 70% — for more education options for families. And there is nearly 90% support for every child to have access to good school options, not just failing schools. Support for education is pretty similar whether it is private, public, or even homeschooling. As we invest in educating the public we must open up to a new generation of education. Georgia can and should lead on how to deliver a forward-thinking education that is responsive to family’s and kid’s needs.”

Opinion: Georgia needs to widen schooling choices in 2024

Opinion: Georgia needs to widen schooling choices in 2024

Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

Opinion: Georgia needs to widen schooling choices in 2024

By Buzz Brockway

The year is only half over, but 2023 has already been a banner year for the expansion of educational opportunity for students in other states across America.

Georgia was so close to being one of them, but we fell short. More on that later.

Seven states have enacted laws that create universal — or near universal — access for all students in 2023: Ohio, Iowa, Utah, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and Indiana. That’s on top of West Virginia and Arizona, which did so in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Other states have made strides toward universal access as well, including Ohio as a more recent example.

Each state has its own version of a scholarship or educational savings account that the state funds for children’s needs outside of traditional public school. For example, these types of accounts send a portion of each student’s public school dollars to allow the child to attend a private school of their family’s choice. In some cases, families who choose to homeschool their children can use the funds for educational expenses.

In Indiana, for example, the state’s scholarship program will now be available to any family below 400% of the amount required to qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. That translates to a salary of around $222,000 a year for a family of four.

Previously, requirements were in place that further limited the program, such as it only being open to families with students previously enrolled in a public school or to children in the foster care system. Under the new law, only an estimated 3.5% of Indiana’s families won’t qualify for this option.

Meanwhile, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster recently signed a bill into law that eventually expands that state’s scholarship program to families at or below 200% of full- and reduced-priced lunch as well. The program is more limited in scope than Indiana’s. It will only be available to 5,000 students the first year, 10,000 the second year and 15,000 students the third year.

South Carolina’s program allows for the establishment of Educational Scholarship Trust Funds. Funds deposited in these accounts can be used not only for expanded school choice, but may also be used for special needs therapies, such as physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Tutors and transportation may also be included for families caring for special needs students.

Now to Georgia. State lawmakers had a prime opportunity to add our state to this growing list that recognizes the importance of families having educational options. Unfortunately, we fell short.

Senate Bill 233, also known as the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, would have made $6,500 per student available for parents to direct toward the best educational approaches for their children. The funds would have been eligible for use as private school tuition and public school alternatives, such as homeschooling.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, families who qualified would have had students enrolled into the lower 25% of schools in Georgia. This amounted to roughly 400,000 students.

SB 233 was a strong bill, passing the Senate with unanimous Republican support and going on to the House. Despite receiving no support from Senate Democrats, it’s excellent news that the bill made it so far through legislative proceedings.

The House vote proved to be tougher, with bipartisan representatives voting against it. Rep. Mesha Mainor of Atlanta was the lone Democrat in the House to vote in favor. On its final day of session, SB 233 was only six votes short of the 91 it needed to pass.

The good news is that the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act is eligible for reconsideration during the 2024 legislative session. Lawmakers can’t let another year pass without giving control back to parents.

Public education is a foundational and vital part of the success of American society, but an increasing number of families are looking toward alternatives — and their choices are just as valid. We must work to deliver quality education to all students, which means finding ways to support families who take a different schooling path. While many will access their education through public schools, not all kids are a perfect fit for that system and they cannot be left behind.

Buzz Brockway is executive vice president of public policy at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. He is a former Georgia state representative and is chair of the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia.

Read the full article here

 This opinion was originally published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on August 7, 2023. 

We need more lawmakers like Georgia Rep. Mesha Mainor

We need more lawmakers like Georgia Rep. Mesha Mainor

Mesha Mainor, education, party switch, ga politics

We need more lawmakers like Georgia Rep. Mesha Mainor

Key Points

  • Mainor’s party switch shows her dedication to expanding educational options.
  • There is a growing national movement in favor of educational opportunity, with several states enacting universal access to education.
  • Parents show public support for school choice, especially within minority communities, and Mainor’s recognition of the urgent need for better educational options in her district says she’s listening to her constituents.

Our state and nation would be far better off if there were more principled lawmakers like Rep. Mesha Mainor around.

Mainor recently made national headlines by announcing her change in party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. A prominent Georgia Democrat and sitting state senator has already vowed to ensure she is defeated in next year’s primary election. Partisanship aside, one of Mainor’s primary reasons for switching was due to her support for expanding educational options to all students.

Mainor was the only Democrat to vote in favor of Georgia’s Promise Scholarships Act earlier this year. The measure would have put $6,500 per student back into parents’ pockets so they could fund the best educational approaches for their children, including private school tuition. The bill was targeted so that students in some of the poorest performing public school districts across the state would have access.

The measure passed the Senate with unanimous Republican support but fell short in the House with a number of Republicans breaking with their party to oppose the measure. Thankfully, the bill is alive for the upcoming 2024 session.

Mainor is a prime example of a lawmaker putting the best interests of her constituents first — especially her constituents who are impoverished and reside in zip codes with limited educational options. This type of integrity is rare in politics and policy making these days.

But her decision doesn’t stand in a silo. It is reflective of a growing national movement in favor of educational opportunity. Half a dozen states have already enacted universal — or near universal — access to educational opportunity in 2023 alone. Lawmakers across the U.S. are recognizing the growing national consensus around this issue. 

The most recent evidence is a new poll showing that 71% of Americans support the concept of “school choice,” which is defined as giving taxpayer dollars back to parents to empower them to choose the right school for their child. The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for even stronger public support, with backing for school choice growing seven percentage points between now and the beginning of the pandemic.

Crucially, 73% of African Americans and 71% of Hispanics support school choice. This is a reality Mainor has recognized in her own district, which is predominantly minority — she sees the desperate need these families have for an educational lifeline.

“In my district in particular, we have schools with 3% reading proficiency, 3% have obtained math proficiency by the eighth grade,” Mainor told Fox News Digital. “And so to say that this is just how it is and that the kid needs to just suffer these consequences, I don’t agree with that. And I don’t think that all parents agree with that either.”

Perhaps more revealing is the fact that the poll found widespread support for school choice even among Democrats — to the tune of 66%.

It’s a shame that Mainor was forced from her political party in large part because she refused to toe the line on what should be a bipartisan issue — and an issue that clearly is viewed as bipartisan among the electorate in general.

A poll found widespread support for school choice even among Democrats — to the tune of 66%.
A poll found widespread support for school choice even among Democrats — to the tune of 66%.

It’s an issue that helps students like Aiden, a young man with special needs who wasn’t getting the specialized education he needed in local public schools in Cobb County. The answer came through a specialized private school in Atlanta. Or the story of Hudson, another student with special needs whose life was transformed by access to an alternative education option.

We commend Mainor for her bravery and integrity as we build a future where every child has access to an excellent education.

About The Author

David Bass

Press Manager

David Bass is a journalist and communications professional with nearly two decades of experience in the world of PR, marketing, and publications.

Charter schools outshine the traditional public school model, Stanford University report finds

Charter schools outshine the traditional public school model, Stanford University report finds

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), charter schools, charter school, alternative education, education options, GA schools, GA education, ga learning

Charter schools outshine the traditional public school model, Stanford University report finds

Key Points

  • Research shows between years 2014 and 2019, charter school students were more advanced in math and reading than their public school counterparts. 
  • Students  who experienced the greatest benefits were black and Hispanic student.
  • The data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools.

When it comes to favorable education outcomes, charter schools consistently outshine the traditional public school system. 

According to an annual report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), between the years 2014 and 2019, charter school students were more advanced in math and reading than their public school counterparts. CREDO’s research concluded that over the course of a year, those gains equated to an extra six math learning days, and 16 extra reading days, above what public school students receive. 

In terms of performance, 83% of charter school students had stronger reading skills than their counterparts in public school. Seventy-five percent of students in charter schools had higher math performance. 

This is CREDO’s third study on charter schools since 2000. It covered 6,200 schools in 29 states. CREDO used data from standardized tests to obtain its findings.

“It’s clear that charter schools benefit Georgia families by offering a crucial alternative to a traditional public school,” said Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy for the Georgia Center for Opportunity. “We can add this CREDO study to a growing body of research bearing this out.”

 

Charter schools benefit marginalized students most

According to the data in the CREDO report, marginalized students benefited the most from charter schools’ curricula and practices. Of these students, those who experienced the greatest benefits were black and Hispanic students, students enrolled in English-as-a-second-language programs, and students living in poverty. 

CREDO concluded that black charter school students experienced approximately 35 days of additional progress in reading, and for math, 29 days. These results added up to an extra month and a half of learning per school year. 

It’s crucial that those responsible for students’ wellbeing, from the family to the highest levels of government, take note of these findings. If we want to offer historically marginalized students their best possible educational opportunities, then we must consider making charter schools more accessible than ever before.

 

“Over time, the data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools.”

“Over time, the data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools.”

High-quality charter school networks have consistently performed better over time

Over time, the data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools. CREDO’s research team ultimately ran three studies from 2000 to 2023 to prove that an established pattern existed. With this year’s data in hand, it’s safe to say that charter schools continue to perform well, and the future is looking bright. 

Researchers at CREDO took their initial 2014-2019 time frame and expanded it to cover the years 2009 through 2023. They then compared it to national public school performance. Again, the results remained consistent, with outcomes continuing to track positively for charter school students. 

It’s also important to note the boom in charter school enrollment since 2019. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment at charter schools jumped by seven percent between fall 2019 and fall 2020 (the start of the pandemic). By the same token, public school enrollment dropped by four percent during that time. 

This increase in demand, combined with emerging data about charter school performance, indicates that we may continue to see charter schools rising in popularity well into the future. 

 

Georgia opted out of this year’s study. Why?

Although Georgia participated in CREDO’s previous two studies, the state opted out of this year’s study. It’s unfortunate, given that Georgia’s charter schools are improving education, graduation rates, and career opportunities for students all over the state. With additional positive data from Georgia in hand, we may have seen even further success reflected in the CREDO study.

That being said, we do have some Georgia specific data to share. The State Charter School Commission (SCSC) compared state authorized charter school growth scores to the growth scores of traditional public schools the students would otherwise attend, following the CREDO study methodology.

 

  • Charter school academic growth compared to local traditional schools is rising nationally. The number of state charter schools in Georgia with higher progress scores than the local traditional schools increased from 2015 to 2019, with over half outperforming in the most recent school year for which data are available 2021-2022.

 

  • Students of color perform better in charter schools. Nationally, the academic performance of Black and Hispanic students attending charters grew by large margins relative to their peers attending traditional public schools. In Georgia, the share of majority-minority state charter schools outperforming their local traditional school comparisons rose dramatically from 17 percent to 60 percent between 2015 and 2019.

 

  • Charter schools yield better academic performance for students living in poverty. From 2015 to 2019, the academic progress of charter school students living in poverty nationwide surpassed that of their peers attending traditional public schools. In 2015, Georgia had 11 state charter schools serving large populations of economically disadvantaged students, and only one had higher growth scores than the traditional local schools. However, by 2019, the number climbed to eight out of 17.

 

  • The instructional delivery model matters and varies by location. At the national level, student performance in fully online charter schools floundered across the five-year period compared to traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Conversely, in Georgia, virtual state charters showed significant progress during the same period. By 2021-2022, both statewide virtual charter schools outperformed their traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts in several grades.

 

The SCSC analysis mirrors the result of the CREDO study in all areas except one: Georgia’s virtual charter schools are performing better than virtual charter schools nationally.

 

Wrapping up

It’s essential that every participating state share their outcomes whenever possible. Studies like the one conducted by CREDO provide families and government entities with the compelling, factual information they need to make informed decisions. For families, that decision may mean the choice between a traditional public school and a higher-performing charter school that opens up new opportunities for their students.

For government entities, having plenty of hard data in hand to support charter schools could make it much easier for states to open up charter school access to more students. When states opt out of providing this all-important information, children ultimately suffer most.

Opinion: Georgia needs to widen schooling choices in 2024

Democratic representative’s move could prompt school choice passage in Georgia

Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

Democratic representative’s move could prompt school choice passage in Georgia

Could a state lawmaker’s jump from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party lead to the passage of school choice in Georgia?

Rep. Mesha Mainor of Atlanta announced her intention Tuesday to switch to the Republican Party, drawing expected responses from her new and old parties.

During this year’s legislative session, Mainor voted in favor of Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, a measure other Democrats and some Republicans opposed. It would have created state-funded education savings accounts.

“Our state and nation would be far better off if there were more principled lawmakers like Rep. Mainor around,” Buzz Brockway, the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s vice president of public policy, said in a statement to The Center Square when asked what the move means for school choice. “She has prioritized the best interests of her constituents, especially those who are impoverished and reside in zoned zip codes with limited educational options. 

“Rep. Mainor’s decision is reflective of a growing national movement in favor of educational opportunity — the most recent example being a poll showing that 71% of Americans support the concept of school choice,” Buzz Brockway added. “Crucially, 73% of African Americans and 66% of Democrats back school choice as well.

 

Opinion: Georgia needs to widen schooling choices in 2024

Facing Difficulties Due to Criminal Background

Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

Facing Difficulties Due to Criminal Background

A bipartisan group of lawmakers made their case for school choice in Georgia, saying parents should have the opportunity to choose better schools for their children.

During this year’s session, Georgia lawmakers killed Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, a measure to create state-funded education savings accounts. Nearly all Democrats and a few Republicans voted against the measure.

It called for taxpayers to cover the cost of scholarships up to $6,500 per student per school year. The proposal would have allowed the families to use the money to defray “qualified” education costs, such as private school tuition.

Last week, the Georgia Center for Opportunity lamented Georgia lawmakers’ missed chance to expand educational opportunities for Peach State students with the failure of SB 233.