Parents Perspective: Status Quo Education Equals Income Discrimination – By Jaredd Simons (Activist)

February 24, 2012

[img_assist|nid=26633|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=133|height=150]I am a 34 year old parent and live in Kennesaw. I have a 4 year old son who lives with his mother in Covington. I wouldn’t consider us single parents, since we are both actively involved in the raising of our son. Usually I call us “split parents”. As my signature below indicates, I work as an actuary in the health insurance industry, and I am working toward gaining my credentials.

I have no official ties to any campaign or advocacy group; I’m just a concerned citizen. I have sent a number of emails and made a number of phone calls to both my state representatives and other area representatives asking them to support this legislation. I follow a couple of groups on Facebook that are advocates of this bill and other school choice measures (specifically 100 Dads and AFP Georgia) and so I have been active in spreading the word via social media. I am also a member of Atlanta Young Republicans and attend other Libertarian, Conservative, and/or Republican groups/organizations and have spoken about this issue and others to many of our elected officials in attendance at those events. I have been interested in this issue for many years, long before I became a parent. My son is not yet in school, but I would like to have more options than just the local public schools, and, since I am paying tax dollars for education, I would like to see that money spent in a more effective way.

There are a number of reasons why I support this bill and State level created charter schools, but mostly I see this as a civil rights issue. Specifically, parents have the right to decide how best to raise their children. Unfortunately, our current system infringes upon this right and we need to change it.

We know that the K-12 education system in Georgia is one of the worst in the country. We have thrown money at the problem for years now and have gotten little in return for it. Cobb county pays $8,000 per student per year. I believe Dekalb and Fulton counties each spend $12,000 or more per student per year. That’s equivalent with some college tuitions, and yet we are barely educating our kids. It is pathetic. So, I think that it is pretty clear that the problem is not funding — it’s the model. Charter schools are one way to offer a different model in education. In fact, Charter schools can offer many different models simultaneously.

I think that the schools in Cobb are fairly well respected as good schools, at least relative to most areas of the state. But even in a county like Cobb, the education quality can be improved by Charter schools. No matter how good the school is for most of the kids attending it, there will always be some students that would be better served in a different setting. To think that we can have one school teach every child in an area and have that education meet everyone’s needs is insane. Every child is different. Each child has different skills, aptitudes, and needs. Giving parents some realistic choices is the only way to serve all those needs.

The current system is oppressive. Generally speaking there is a pretty clear relationship, the poorer an area, the worse a school. Parents are faced with an impossible situation. If you can’t afford to move to a higher cost area, then your child is doomed to an inadequate education. We are condemning generation after generation to a life of poverty. I don’t see how you can call this anything other than income discrimination. And it is not limited to just the lower income class. The middle class, even upper middle class, struggles to pay for private education. We are all taxed to pay for education, but unless you can essentially afford to pay both the taxes and the cost of a private school, per child, you have no choice but to uproot your family and move to another area, and then again, only if you can afford to live in that magical zip code and find a job that you can work there. Not to mention that if you have multiple children, you have to try and find a school district that meets the needs of all your children.

People don’t want to go to a completely private system because it would “unfairly” advantage the rich, yet these same people advocate for a system that not only advantages the rich, but makes it virtually impossible for the poor to improve their children’s lives. It flat out makes me sick.

The goal of tax payer supported education is to insure that every child in this state is equipped with a basic education and to make them a productive member of society. We are completely missing the mark today. Charter schools would allow parents more choices, more opportunities to find the educator that best serves their child’s needs. It would allow parents to send 1 child to 1 school and their other child to a 2nd school. I come from a two-child family. I was a math/science kid and outside playing the trombone, I had no artistic ability at all (still don’t). My sister was the exact opposite. There isn’t a single school in this state that could adequately serve both our needs. It just isn’t possible. Even if you found 1 school that did, could you replicate that school throughout the entire state, in every district? I seriously doubt it.

I’ll close by saying this. I watched a show that highlighted Jason Heyward, hometown product and right fielder for the Atlanta Braves. They talked about how his dad picked him up from school every day and drove him from the south side of Atlanta up to Cobb county so that he could play baseball on one of the best traveling teams in the state. They did this because Jason loved baseball and they knew that Jason was a special talent in baseball and they wanted to give him the best opportunity of playing in the majors that they could. Jason had to work hard to get where he is today. They talked about how he had to do his homework on the drive to practice and all that they did to help him balance baseball and his education. I believe they said it was an hour drive each way and not to mention all the traffic that they had to endure as they drove up I-75/85 and back nearly every day. The Heywards took drastic steps to do what was right for their son. They had no way of knowing for sure that Jason would make it to the majors, but they did everything they could to give him the chance.

Fortunately for Jason, he was good at baseball. For the kids good at something like math or art, our current system forces most of them to go to the school where they live. Who knows if that school can challenge them in the classroom like Jason was challenged on the baseball field. It is an absolute travesty. The parents of those kids can’t choose to drive across town to take their child to a school that might challenge them. They have 3 options: public school, home school, or private school. For most families, whether with 1 parent or 2, there is only 1 realistic choice. Will Charter schools fix all these problems? Undoubtedly not. But Charter schools will certainly help many kids, of all aptitudes, regardless of their economic situation. It will provide at least a 2nd, realistic choice for many parents. They can take their child to the public school in their district, or they can choose a charter school, whether it be in their district or not, that might serve them better.

If we, as a community, want to make sure that every child has an opportunity at a high quality, valuable education, then we have a choice to make. We can continue to do the same thing that we have always done and hope for different results, or we can try something different. Charter schools are working in other states, like our neighbors to the south, and even in DC. I believe that Charter schools will work here and that they are an integral step along the way to reaching the educational goals of the parents of this state. HR 1162 opens the door to positive change in Georgia education and I just don’t understand how anyone can be against that.

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