Temperature Rises in Georgia's Debate Over Universal School Vouchers

With a proposal in the state legislature, Georgia is having a debate right now over universal vouchers for K-12 students. The bill, sponsored by state senator Eric Johnson, would attach $5,000 to each child for their parents to select the public or private school of their choice.

The debate over such a radical change makes events down in the Peach State worth watching closely: Will one state dare to make the leap to truly competitive, student-centered, customer-friendly public education? Are our schools foremost a jobs program for adults or a place to serve the needs of students? I think most parents and many teachers would choose the latter, but connecting that perception to constructing a more competitive system of consumer empowerment is easily lost in the heated rhetoric that inevitably follows the word “vouchers”.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial writer Maureen Downey makes a different sort of case against Senator Johnson’s school choice proposal:

Let me be clear. I think the voucher bill is counterproductive legislation that will only help its sponsor’s political career. However, I also think the bill represents an overdue wake-up call for public schools that they must be more responsive to parents.

In other words, Downey has grabbed the proverbial collars of government school bureaucrats and shaken them with the message that they need to act like they face competitive pressures, or they may end up having to face competitive pressures! Hmmm.

In an earlier piece Downey claimed the universal voucher program would create “zero impact”. But Jay Greene reasserts the point that there is plenty of evidence “they have to explain away” to get to that conclusion.

Let’s hope the debate moves forward to the benefit of students in Georgia and across the nation.