This op-ed was originally published in the Savannah Morning News on March 26th. Check out the original post here.  

By Randy Hicks

Once again, it’s an election year. And as in the past, we’ll probably hear a lot of talk about the state of education in Georgia. But what does it really mean to have an excellent education for K-12 students? What constitutes real education reform that will prepare Georgia’s children for the jobs of the future and bring the benefits of competition to education?

Most basically, it’s a mistake to measure the quality of education by the amount spent on education. Instead, the quality of education must be measured by results. And that starts with two goals: First, finding the right school setting for each child. Two, ensuring that parents can take advantage of choice and place their child in that setting.

Every child is different. That’s why families should have a variety of educational options for their child. The goal of real education reform—of enhancing choice in education—is to ensure that families have high-quality options. Of course, this includes traditional public schools, but it also includes public charter schools (where Georgia’s programs are growing in popularity); private schools (including for children with special needs and those who benefit from the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship program); online education, homeschooling, and hybrid education options. Parents can then select the option or options that help their child learn and grow the best.

Fortunately, Georgians already favor choice in education. Now, as the campaign season is intensifying, the Legislature can prove their dedication to our kids by taking real steps towards education reform this year. For instance, lawmakers can raise the arbitrary cap on the tax credit scholarship program, as two bills propose to do. More parents want these scholarships, and more people want to give to make them a reality for Georgia’s children. The Legislature shouldn’t stand in the way. Special needs children, children with disabilities, and others can benefit from expanded scholarship programs based on choice.

As the legislative session winds down and the campaign season begins, I hope that voters will take the time to inform themselves on education issues and ask the candidates where they stand and why, rather than simply being satisfied with proposals for higher spending for public K-12 schools. A vibrant education system in Georgia will include high-performing public schools all across the state, but it will include independent schools as well. Each sector should be committed to excellence, and parents should have the option of choosing the educational settings that are right for their child.

Seven years ago, Gov. Nathan Deal called on Georgians to “be frugal and wise. Let us restore the confidence of our citizens in a government that is limited and efficient.” His words ring true with a spirit of promoting true education reform which contributes to both of the Governor’s goals – frugality and efficiency. Public education, too, will benefit from the competition that true choice brings, and the results will benefit both Georgia’s children and Georgia’s taxpayers. The competition that comes from true choice for parents will improve all schools, making education in Georgia not only more frugal and efficient but also much more effective.

And that is the point of true education reform: more choice, and better schools, for everyone. Let’s keep that in mind and keep education reform a priority in this political year.

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