What is with conservatives and creating special savings accounts as a policy solution?
Sen. Hunter Hill told the Marietta Daily Journal he was “pleasantly surprised” that the only question on the Republican ballot addressed a key policy area he’s championed — the creation of education savings accounts (ESA), from taxpayer dollars.
The question before Republican primary voters read: “Should Georgia empower parents with the right to use the tax dollars allocated for the education of their children, allowing them the freedom to choose, among public, private, virtual and home schools?”
The question, more accurately, is: “Should we further defund public education for the benefit of private and charter schools?”
Hill attempts to paint a very nice picture of how these funds could be used, based on legislation, SB 92, he previously authored to create these ESAs.
“It’s really almost a philosophy of whose money is this that funds public education,” Hill said regarding the goal of SB 92, “and the spirit and the philosophy of it is it’s families’ money that they pay for state taxes and property taxes, and we’re giving a choice to give a portion of that money — not all of it — back to the parents and the children to determine what is the best educational fit for them.”
What he fails to mention is that parents can only access “their” money if they agree not to enroll their student in public school.
Suddenly, this isn’t about boosting students’ — all students’ — access to additional, helpful material and resources. It’s about draining public school systems of funds to further benefit private and charter schools.
Frustratingly, these sorts of savings account models rely on the notion that public school (or healthcare or whatever is the savings account policy “solution” of the day) is providing only an individual benefit — to the student — rather than being a public good that benefits every person in Georgia.
The reason that we all pay — one way or another — to fund public school is because we all benefit. It doesn’t matter if you’re childless or retired, if you have a family that is large or small. There is substantial evidence that educational attainment is tied to improved health outcomes, higher levels of civic engagement, and better lifetime earnings (although there are still significant gender and race pay gaps that education does not overcome).
“Whose money is this that funds public education?” Hill rhetorically asks. It’s money that comes from every taxpayer, directly or indirectly. The reason we don’t just tax families with children is because we all benefit from having educated citizens.
And the reason we fund public institutions, rather than just privatizing our education system, is because it allows for at least a modicum of public accountability and transparency. And because maybe, just maybe, it’s a terrible idea to line the pockets of for-profit education companies, at the cost of actually funding our public schools.
Hill plans to reintroduce this legislation, MDJ reports:
Hill says he intends to reintroduce his bill in the next legislative session, but in order to have the chance do so, he will have to defeat in the Nov. 8 general election fellow Smyrna resident Jaha Howard, the sole Democratic candidate in the race.
Savings accounts as a policy solution are a terrible idea. Defunding public education is a terrible idea. Sen. Hunter Hill seems to be full of terrible ideas.