"When it comes to school choice, it's simple. It's about education," Sen. Barry Loudermilk said to the crowd.
School choice falls under 2001's No Child Left Behind law, and while Georgia has received a NCLB waiver, the waiver will adhere to state law (O.C.G.A. 20-2-2130) which gives parents of children enrolled in schools that receive Title I funding and that are identified for "school improvement" the opportunity to transfer their children to a school that has not been so identified in that category.
The film, produced by Americans For Prosperity, takes a look at the issues and consequences related to how low performing schools, income levels, mandated teacher credentials as well as state and federal regulation have snowballed and overlooked the general education of children. Following the screening, Loudermilk, Rep. Christian Coomer and Americans for Prosperity State Director of Georgia Virginia Galloway, engaged the crowd during a town hall question- and-answer period as well as provided commentary on the issue of school choice.
For example, one parent questioned the logistics of school choice.
"As far as the county or the state being the one to provide for transportation, that would be something the parents would be responsible one way or the other, but in other places where school choice exists it really hasn't been much of an issue," Galloway said. "Parents have really stepped up to [provide transportation] because if the school their child is attending isn't working for them, they're willing to take them to a school that will work [for their child]."
Among other topics discussed included charter schools, private schools home schooling and online education options.
Coomer also commented on one perspective on the Georgia Supreme Court's 2011 ruling of the state's Charter Schools Commission as unconstitutional, saying the ruling was as a way to keep various state agencies from over stepping their power.
"The issue that we're trying to fix ... it's a charter school issue, but more importantly, it's a balance of powers issue," Coomer said. "We're all familiar with the balance of power, we have three branches of government that all have to have checks and balances on one another, and we've often criticized our federal representatives because they have given so much authority to the executive branch by then in action our federal legislature and congress, for me it seems critical to allow our judiciary in Georgia to reach so far out of its bounds of its constitutional authority and essentially tell the legislature and the executive, 'you don't have the authority to do what the people of Georgia want you to do,' and so for me, while we can't talk about the specifics of charter schools as an issue, that particular [ruling], to me, was really about keeping activist judiciary inside its box, now that we've been overrun with ... authority."
One parent addressed the panel regarding the loss of school funding when a student leaves one school for another.
"If I lose a client because they go and hire another lawyer, they don't keep sending me a check," Coomer said. The money follows the client, so I have to do a good job to keep that client or I go out of business.
"... There seems to be a concern that children will flee the traditional school for what is perceived is a 'better product,' and so the question is, why is it a better product?"
To request a free copy of the film, visit www.makingthegradefilm.com.