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Let’s think outside the box

By   /   November 29, 2012  /   Comments

It turns out that Georgia’s graduation rate sucks.  With just 67 percent of students graduating, it’s apparently the lowest in the Southeast.  Not something we want to put on our license plates, to be sure.  There’s clearly a lot of work to be done, but our low graduation rate may be the spur we need to try some innovative ideas.

We’ve already started part of that with our new charter school amendment.  Charter schools tend to attract families that want their kids to learn.  It takes them away from elements that merely go to school because they’re required to.  To some, this is a bug, but it’s not.  Opponents believe this will lead to de facto segregation, but that’s not true.  Basically, charter schools would draw from the same people who currently attend public schools (people who can’t afford private education, generally) and will draw from people of all colors.

However, there are other approaches that might be worth looking into.  For example, school choice coupled with “backpacking” funds.  The term “backpacking” funds refers to the idea of associating funds with an individual child from the moment they are eligible to attend public schools, and then channeling those funds towards whichever school that student chooses to attend.  Now, if you make it possible for parents to select which school their kids attend, the public schools will be introduced to that all powerful free market incentive: competition.

Maybe our low ranking in graduation rates will lead to some form of voucher program where students can attend private schools.  For some, this is worrisome, and I’ll admit I’m not crazy about public money going towards private entities, but I like the idea of vouchers for education a lot better than bank bailouts.  I’ll live with my concerns.  Besides, there is also the strong possibility that more private school students will lead to more private schools in general, which could drive down prices to the point that most anyone could afford private education. Come on!  A guy can dream!

Regardless of what is chosen, it’s clear something needs to be done.  We must have an educated workforce to attract new employers to the state, but a 67 percent graduation rate just isn’t going to cut it.  I urge lawmakers to think outside of the box on this.  Sure, look at what has worked elsewhere, but don’t be afraid to break new ground.  All of the proven solutions on this planet started out as an unproven idea that someone gave a chance to.

Let’s quit being followers and break new ground.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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Owner / Editor / Writer

Tom Knighton is the publisher of The Albany Journal. In November, 2011, he became the first blogger to take over a newspaper anywhere in the world. In August of 2012, he made the difficult decision to take the Journal out of print circulation and become an online news agency, a first for the Albany area.

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