No free lunch in this town

Posted: July 24, 2012 in Uncategorized
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With “back-to-school season” in full swing, we must remember that there’s no such thing as a free public education

With “back-to-school season” in full swing, we must remember that there’s no such thing as a free public education
We have heard that some things in life are guaranteed including death and taxes. I would like to add yearly public school fees and supply lists to those guarantees for most of us in this country. These requests ask parents/guardians to chip in for a wide array of fees and school supplies. They make their appearance in our either our snail mail and/or e-mail boxes, websites and/or at our local retailers. I’m not about to write a post whining about these fee and supply requests. I, like many other parents believe that the best investment one could make is in their child’s education. Furthermore, in these times of austerity measures, I understand that our public schools need the help and financial boost. In other words, our schools need a lifeline.
OK, I accept the fee structure. It’s not exactly sticker shock, but with each new school season upon us, I am reminded that there’s no such thing as a totally free public education. Perhaps that assessment is a bit harsh. Obviously, if parents/guardians are struggling, I am sure that they may speak with school administrators about a fee reduction.

Still, with the implementation of these requests, I ask the question: Is public education totally free? I cannot honestly answer that question, but I wonder where public education is headed with its financial survival. Will there be higher yearly, monthly or weekly fee requests? If fee requests become more burdensome, will we see our public schools look to other financial resources such as private businesses? Could we see a combination of financial resources coming from parents/guardians, business and through property taxes?

Here’s another scenario: Could we see a completely privatized education system that operates within a state-sponsored voucher plan? Perhaps one day, we will see Wal-Mart Middle School operating a few miles away from Fidelity Investments High School. Well, our ballparks have sponsor names. Why not schools? In privatized, sponsored school systems, students may compete to get into the cream-of-the-crop schools such as Macy’s Elementary School and avoid having to go to Dollar General Grade School. Many argue that a privatized/”voucherized” universe would greatly improve this nation’s educational landscape. Maybe these ideas sound far-fetched, but I wonder how education would look if a few states implemented such a plan.

Certainly a corporate-sponsored education system is a long-shot at this point, but the charter school idea is gaining support. Perhaps one day, we could see charter schools become more prominent or even take over the public system. According to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution story by Jim Galloway, Governor Nathan Deal will be raising funds for the charter school initiative. In that same Political Insider piece, Galloway references his colleague, Wayne Washington with the fact that the state has reduced its commitment to public education: “For the first time in 16 years, local governments paid a higher share of the cost of public education that state governments, a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed…” “Georgia’s public primary and secondary schools got about 38 percent of their funding from the state, with local government paying about 48 percent. Federal and private sources accounted for the rest, according to the census report, which covers the year 2010.”

As of this writing, I confess that we’re only paying a small fraction into the system with these school fee requests, but I cannot help but wonder where we are headed.

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