Category Archives: Legislation

Education Turns Into Social Services And Health Care

What do YOU believe is the role of school districts in providing health care and social services to families?

The Gwinnett Daily Post is reporting that with the failure of the Opportunity School District referendum, some state lawmakers expect the issue of how to improve failing schools to move toward providing more services, social and healthcare in particular, as an operational component of school districts.

Senator Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said one response to the proposed Opportunity School District being voted down in November is that the focus may shift from the academic nature of the issue, to reasons why children are sick, or have poor attendance.

Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, suggested an audit for schools that have high poverty rates to identify the core issues.

“What are the problems, is attendance bad? Well, what’s causing that,” Coleman said. “Is it illnesses? Are they sick a lot? Is it the fact they’re not getting enough food? Let’s analyze, audit, what do you think is the root cause that your school is failing. … Well, what are you missing, and then analyze and try to provide those services. That’s the first step, is to provide those needs because let’s face it, (if) the child’s not in school, they’re late, if they’re not present, if they don’t feel good, you can’t start the learning. But if they come on time, they come fed, they come without a toothache, they come feeling good, then you can get about the learning.”
Unterman and Coleman each admitted that school leaders and those who work in education would push back at this notion because their main focus is education.

Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

The DeKalb Board of Education met with the county’s state legislators a few weeks ago. I asked them

1. Does the state believe that tax payers should provide health care and social services to families? If so, then who should do that and how is it funded?
2. What does the state believe is the role of school districts in providing health care and social services to families?

Many school districts across the state attribute poor academic performance to the effects of poverty and family dynamics. Numerous school districts have departments dedicated to “Wrap Around Services” that try to mitigate these effects by providing additional services to students and their family.

Wrap Around Services at DeKalb Schools
DeKalb Schools has created a Student Support and Intervention Division to provide “Wrap Around Services” and address the diverse needs of students and families. The current profile of “Wrap Around Services” available to support students and families in DeKalb Schools include School Counselors, School Social Workers and Homeless Liaisons, School Psychologists, School Nurses, Student Support Specialists, Post-Secondary Transition Specialists, Parent Liaisons, EL Success Facilitators and Check and Connect Mentors.

Furthermore, DeKalb Schools is
• Giving stipends and signing bonuses to attract and retain talented, motivated teachers
• Appropriating $1.9 million for literacy and mathematics initiatives
• Spending $750K for the 10 Horizon schools to partner with Discovery Education
• Spending $398K to partner with IIRP(International Institute for Restorative Practices) to reduce the number of suspensions

I couldn’t disagree more with Sen. Unterman and Rep. Coleman in their assertion that school leaders will “push back” on the notion of adding services via the school district so long as the funding is provided. Mr. Unterman and Mr. Coleman need to refer to the Rules of Bureaucracy.

Rule #1: Maintain the problem at all costs! The problem is the basis of power, perks, privileges, and security.
Rule #2: Use crisis, and perceived crisis, to increase your power and control.
Bureaucracies are famous for their mission creep. Their incentive is always to address inputs and never results. As Thomas Sowell reminds us, “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

School districts that are already large and highly bureaucratic will be quite welcoming to enlarging their reach and responsibility. It makes them more powerful. The state has no enforcement mechanisms of any consequence. Giving the same people more money to do more things without any meaningful accountability measures means that your taxes are just going to purchase more failure.

What are your thoughts?

Tax Credits For Private Schools

Challenge to tax credit scholarships is coming to the Georgia State Supreme Court

According to Ty Tagami in the AJC, early next year, the Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gaddy v. Georgia, the lawsuit over the state’s K-12 tax credit scholarship program.
The Fulton County Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit brought by Raymond Gaddy, a taxpayer who argued the $58 million program was unconstitutional. He then appealed. The state constitution prohibits the use of tax dollars to fund “any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination.” He argues that the scholarship program is unconstitutional because it gives money to private schools with religious affiliations.
Georgia limits the tax credits to $58 million a year, and in recent years, the $58 million in donations to the program has been taken on the first day of availability. Proponents cite that as evidence of the program’s popularity.
Tax Credits For Private Schools
Since 2008 Georgia has allowed married taxpayers filing jointly to take up to $2,500 of their state taxes and redirect them to be used as scholarships for private schools. Single filers can redirect up to $1,000, and anyone in the state can participate – not just parents with kids in school.
This amazing program, known as the Qualified Education Expense (QEE) Tax Credit, will actually give you a state tax credit -not just a deduction – for money that you designate for the school of your choice. This credit extends even to religious schools, and since you donate the funds through a non-profit corporation (called a Student Scholarship Organization, or SSO) you can also take the donation as a deduction on your federal tax return. Because it is a state tax credit, you get all the money you donate back next year when you file your taxes.
In 2015 the State allocated $58,000,000 in tax revenue that was redirected into the hands of students at Georgia’s private schools.
Education Reform Commission (ERC)
In January 2015, Governor Nathan Deal created an Education Reform Commission (ERC) with 30+ members consisting of teachers, superintendents, principals, state legislators, and heads of various education related firms.  Governor Deal charged this commission with reshaping and revolutionizing Georgia’s education system.
On December 15, the ERC presented its .pdf link icon Final Recommendations to Governor Nathan Deal.  The Commission’s number one priority was to “True up pledges to actual contributions annually for the state’s existing tuition tax credit scholarship program.”
The commission believes that requiring the Department of Revenue to switch from counting pledges to counting actual contributions against the tax credit cap, adjusting the tax credits as actual numbers come in, and informing Student Scholarship Organizations when additional space becomes available will ensure the full allotment of tax credits are utilized. By doing so, Georgia can provide tuition assistance to the number of families originally intended by the tax credit program, rather than losing the funds each year to unfulfilled donations.