Building on the federal support from Mitt Romney and the recent, far-reaching implementation in Louisiana, Georgia’s Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) is the latest public figure calling for voucher expansion to deal with his state’s struggling public schools. During a debate last week with Brandon Beach for Rogers’s current seat, the Senate head revealed that he believed a statewide voucher system should have been implemented “yesterday.”“How quickly should we do it? Yesterday,” Rogers told the audience. “We’ll finally have a market-based system where the best education schools in the system deliver a product to children and parents that they want … not a system that says, ‘Because you live at 123 Elm Street you must go to this school over here.’ That’s craziness.”
Rogers, during the debate, claimed that such a comprehensive voucher system is part of the national GOP plank and supported by “most Republicans.” Beach, a GOP board member on the Georgia Department of Transportation, demurred, noting that the best way to repair the school system is to “replicate … good schools” and to be sure that parents “demanded good schools.”
Local backlash to Rogers’ comments came swiftly, with members of local school boards critiquing Rogers’ stance as a push for privatization. Rogers clarified his position a few days after the debate, saying he supports “every form of education” and that he merely wants to ensure that “every type of educational delivery is excellent.” However, he reaffirmed that attending school based on geographic location is “an antiquated and damaging practice.”
The only voucher system the state currently employs is the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, which allows students with assorted disabilities to use state dollars to attend state-approved private schools. Rogers attempted to expand the program to include military families and foster children in 2010, but the bill died in the state senate.
It’s worth noting that Rogers, during the debate, cited Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher implementation as a model worth considering in Georgia, with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writing that Louisiana’s “is the type of program that voucher proponents in Georgia hope to emulate.” Louisiana’s new framework, one of the most expansive yet seen in the country, will allow approximately 7,000 students to receive taxpayer funds in order to attend private schools, many of which attempt to discredit evolutionary theory in their courses.
A Louisiana judge said earlier this week that he would begin hearings on Oct. 15 on the constitutionality of the voucher system — two months after school-year has already begun.