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It's time for scholarships for kids in failing schools

POSTED: March 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Hold on children. Help is on the way!
About 53,000 children in a single County in Georgia are on the verge of having their future threatened by the inappropriate actions of their board of education. If the Clayton County schools lose their accreditation, there will be no Pre-K funds or HOPE Scholarships available for the children. Transcripts will be invalid. College applications will be thrown in the trash. This is a disaster.
The Georgia Constitution mandates that schools are under the jurisdiction of locally elected school boards. That prevents the governor or the State Department of Education from moving in -- even temporarily -- with new management. So, unless the board members resign and new elections take place and they dramatically change their ways, the children are penalized. It's unfair.
The state Senate is considering a lifeline for the parents of these children. SB458 would require that the state funding for each child be offered to the parents as a scholarship that can be used to transfer the child to any public or private school that will accept the student. We estimate the scholarship will be worth about $4,150 in Clayton County. That will cover a significant portion of private school tuition.
Clayton's children aren't the only ones being placed at risk by poorly run schools. There are 19 schools in Georgia that have been on the Needs Improvement" list for seven or eight years in a row. It is time to admit that the children in the schools need help and the time for excuses has run out. SB458 would also require scholarships be offered to these children as well.
Some say this violates the principle of local control. But, if the local elected officials have clearly failed in their duties, real local control should shift to the parents. This is their money. These are their children. And they should have the right to choose the best educational environment for your child -- particularly when the system has clearly failed.
If the Titanic were sinking and there weren't enough lifeboats, we would put the children in them first. Save the children first and then worry about who hit the iceberg!

Johnson is president pro tem of the Georgia Senate. The Savannah Republican's District 1 covers much of Liberty County. 

 

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