Bold words speak to the impact of politics on education

In a recent AJC interview, former Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Lindsey Tippins was quoted as saying “I’d rather be shot doing what was right, than be lauded for doing what I believed to be wrong.”
Those are strong words from a strong education leader who promptly resigned his chairmanship after the passage of House Bill 787 on the last day of this year’s legislative session. What drove him to take such a principled stand? The bill gave some charter schools a higher rate of funding per student than dozens of Georgia public school systems.
Shockingly, this wasn’t even the biggest blow to public education to come out of this year’s Georgia General Assembly. That honor goes to the much-maligned and controversial passage of HB 217, which increased the cap on private school tax credits from $58 million to $100 million for the next decade. This legislation takes precious resources out of Georgia’s public coffers and directs funds away from our fragile public-school systems.
The passage of both of these bills was the result of cold political calculations by some of our elected leaders and reportedly was done with an eye towards political donations in the race for Governor. Prioritizing the collection of political campaign funds over the long-term health of our public-school systems is absolutely unacceptable.
9 out of 10 school children in Georgia attend public schools.  Let that sink in.  Leaders in Georgia are willing to quite literally shortchange 90 percent of public school children over campaign contributions.
Maybe you don’t have school age children, or your children attend private schools, thereby lessening your interest in the health of public schools.  However, as citizens of this great state it is incumbent on each and every one of us to take an active interest in improving our public schools.
How can Georgia compete in the 21st Century with schools ranked below the national average in Math according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? How can we continue to attract high-tech investments and corporate headquarters to the state when Science rankings are also below average? Success in school is proven to lessen crime rates, to decrease teenage pregnancy, and to lead to a lifetime of improved wages, thereby stimulating the economy we all live in.
Now is our time to fight back against misguided politics that endanger our ability to improve our public schools.


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