Opponents of school choice in Georgia Senate exercise it in their own families

Georgia lawmaker Jodi Lott has a quick and easy answer for why she supports school choice.

“Because it already exists,” the Republican state representative told The Lion. “School choice exists every single day for the wealthy. Sadly, most Democrats and some Republicans are fighting to stop the less fortunate from having those same options.”

And, interestingly enough, some legislators opposing school choice for others have taken advantage of it themselves: The Daily Caller reports that of four Democratic senators who voted against the “Georgia Educational Freedom Act” bill, three send their children to private schools.

Sens. Elana Parent, Lester Jackson and Sonya Halpern “admitted that they send their children to private schools while voting against legislation that could expand access to such schools,” The Daily Caller wrote.

Indeed, Georgia Senate Bill 601 would create “Promise Scholarships” of up to $6,000 a year per family to use on private school tuition and other education-related expenses. A companion bill in the Georgia House, HB 999, would do much the same thing.

While Sen. Parent said last year that she chose private school to avoid taxpayers paying for her son’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the others gave no such reasons.

Although not addressing the senators who opposed school choice while exercising it, Lott lamented that opponents in general “have found it acceptable to leave the poorer children trapped in failing schools while watching those with means transfer to their chosen schools.

“That is an incredible double standard and just another example of widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Georgia should pass legislation that allows a school choice option for all families.”

“All families, regardless of income,” adds Corey A. DeAngelis, director of research at the American Federation for Children, “would be able (under SB 601) to take their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to the education providers of their choosing.”

DeAngelis notes that 77% of Georgia school parents and 69% of all adults in the state “support funding students instead of systems. Parents are the new special interest group in town, and they aren’t going away any time soon.”

The Georgia Center for Opportunity, a nonprofit that promotes school choice, hailed a Senate committee’s approval of SB 601 on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, members of both political parties have a track record of practicing ‘choice for me but not for thee’ — sending their own kids to private schools while denying that same access to lower-income families,” Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy at GCO, said in a statement to The Lion. “It’s sad but true. The bottom line is that underserved kids are suffering because they don’t have access to the same opportunities available to wealthier kids. Programs like Promise Scholarships would break down those barriers and create better equity in education.”

As for the senators who voted against the bill while sending their own kids to private schools, DeAngelis says, “I’m glad those senators had those opportunities for their children. But they shouldn’t fight against school choice for others. We should fund students directly and empower all families to choose the best education provider for their children.”