Monday, April 1, 2013

Georgia Teacher Indictment Justifies School Choice

35 Atlanta, Georgia area education professionals were indicted on charges of theft, racketeering, perjury, and fraud among other charges. The indictment is the result of a 2011 probe into allegations of cheating on federal and state level standardized tests.

Allegedly, teachers, possibly under the direction of administrators, principals, and the superintendent, held "erasure parties". At these parties, according to several renditions of the story, the teachers erased incorrect scores, changing them to correct answers.

The purpose behind the altering the tests was to inflate the student's progress. It was meant to cover up the system of grade inflation being done by the teachers. In addition, it was done to make the teachers and administrators look more effective.

This was not done because the tests were too difficult for the kids. This was not done to protect standardized testing or common core curricula. It was done for money.

Progress is rewarded with grants and bonuses. Part of the funding goes to better equipment. Most of it, however, goes to raises and bonuses for educators.

In other words, this was done to soak taxpayers through fraud.

Who is hurt? The taxpayers lose money that could have been put to better use elsewhere. But it is the students who are hurt. The assessments of their abilities and achievements are left in question. The areas where they need the most attention are hidden. They are hamstrung in pursuing future higher education. They are hamstrung in employment opportunities.

However, if their parents spend the time to fill in those gaps, the damage could be mitigated.

This whole fiasco is a screaming argument in favor of school choice.

Recently, advertisements for Texas Schools First have popped up in and around San Antonio. They oppose school choice. They attempt to argue that the tax money parents pay belongs to the schools and not the students. Point towards the Fulton County Georgia indictments and tell Texas Schools First to take a long hike.

The organization claims that vouchers are theft by charter and private schools. No. That is money taxpaying parents spend on their kids' education. If the local school is failing, then they are not providing the product we paid for. Does that mean they should be paid more? No. It means they should be fired. Parents should be free to take their business, and tax money, elsewhere.

Parents need to be vigilant. The teachers and administrators need to know you are watching. They need to see you visit the classrooms. They need to hear you questioning your kids about what they are learning. If something sounds fishy, it's probably rotting cod. Investigate it. Call your teachers on it. Gather your data and evidence, and challenge the principals with it. Remind them who their real employers are:  YOU!

And do not be afraid to look for other options. You can apply to charter schools. You can tighten your budget and look at private or parochial schools. You can home school (which you should be doing regardless of your child's attendance in a charter or public school). Write your local and state representatives and tell them to back parental rights and school choice, or to start getting their resumes ready.

Those are your kids. That tax money is your money. The choice is yours. Period.