The Polk County Board of Education gathered their voices and raised their hands in opposition of any plan to provide vouchers on the state level, and hope that others will join in to support public schools across Georgia.
Board members voted unanimously on a resolution opposing any plan by the state legislature to put in place or expand any program that provides school vouchers to parents to use toward private education instead of sending their children to classrooms like those in the Polk School District.
Board member Britt Madden was first to speak out on the issue during the Feb. 4 work session, and he was 100% in support of public education, as was the rest of the board.
“Personally, I’m disappointed that legislative action helps continue to support private education and also continues to not have to be required in measurement of results any type of budget or access to public open meeting laws,” Madden said. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in tax dollars — even though we might be the largest line item in the budget in the state — should be handled like that.”
He added that “economic development in Polk County is a challenge. And the citizens of Polk County have invested in the College and Career Academy to help engage our students in ways that allow them to go onto college or find a career path... whichever way suited the child. We made that investment locally, and I’m sad to see the desire to invest in our students isn’t necessarily shared by our legislature.”
Madden said that he was also sad that Polk School District’s input hasn’t been sought about programs like Dual Enrollment on the state level until late in the decision making process. He pointed to the district as a leader in the state in the use of dual enrollment to help students come out of school with a diploma and on their way to a degree with college credits.
Board member Bernard Morgan also pointed toward a need for greater education in the general public on the effect of the voucher program on funding resources for local districts, and on programs generally.
“We have local and state legislators that aren’t for public education, and we need to seek and find some legislators that are for public education,” Morgan said.
Chris Culver added his thoughts by pointing out the district and the community’s benefits in recent years from the development of the College and Career Academy, and that as funding is being shifted in the budget away from public education he fears for its positive growth.
“We want an open book in education, and if its allowed and that’s not going to happen with your charter and private schools, which is one reason why I support this resolution,” he said. “We want to be as transparent as we can with the tax dollars statewide... We don’t have any say. The taxpayer doesn’t have any say in what those tax dollars are being spent on and allowed in those schools. Right her e in Polk County, we want to make sure that as much of those funds come back through our school system and similar school systems throughout the state. We want those tax dollars to come back to educate our children, and help our teachers and our administrators.”
Board members also encouraged the community to call legislators like State Rep. Trey Kelley and State Sen. Bill Heath to ensure their concerns are being heard on the issue.
“As American citizens, you do have a right to say where your tax dollars are going,” board member Vicki Mayes added. “It’s as simple as going to the polls and voting them out.”