I promised Graham Balch that I would post his response to my earlier post regarding the support his campaign has received from a pro-voucher group, so, here it is:

Amy,

Just to follow up about our conversation, here is information about my relationship with American Federation of Children and my stance on education including vouchers.

I believe strongly in President Obama’s vision for education.  I applaud him for standing up for significant reform that other Democrats have been unwilling to stand up for.  We Democrats need to realize that while full funding is critically important, fully funding in and of itself is not going to fix our public schools because even before funding cuts, the public education our children receive has not been adequate for all children across Georgia.  Secretary Arne Duncan has said that merit-based pay in education is the administration’s “highest priority” and I agree that this is a critical component of education reform.  I believe we Democrats must have the courage to embrace and lead significant education reform and I will work on legislation that helps Georgia enact President Obama’s Race to the Top educational reform priorities as many reformer type Democrats are beginning to do around the country in state legislatures.  There is a movement of new educational reform minded Democrats passing educational reform such as merit-based pay, supporting charter schools and teacher union-backed efforts to reform tenure (see Colorado) and we need to bring these educational reforms to Georgia.


On vouchers, I have expressed to the American Federation of Children that I do not support vouchers because of three main concerns:  1.  private schools can teach non-mainstream views that taxpayer dollars should not support.  As a biology teacher, many of the students who come from private schools before attending Grady told me they were taught that “evolution is a hoax” at their previous school.  I don’t see how we can keep a private school from teaching what they want because of our First Amendment rights and I will never support taxpayer dollars being possibly used for non-mainstream teaching.  2. private schools do not take state tests and so there is no accountability for whether students are being well educated or not and I wouldn’t want public taxpayer dollars spent without any accountability.  3. Private schools are selective and selective schools leads to a system of discrimination where students who can’t get into our best schools are relegated to other schools and I don’t think this is fair nor a good idea for providing universal high-quality education.

If you look at my three concerns about private schools, they are all addressed by charter schools (they teach a public curriculum, they are accountable through state tests and they are non-selective) and this is why I support charter schools.  I do believe families need to be able to make sure their child gets a great education and before charter schools, families were trapped in poor-performing schools with no alternatives.  Even Dr. Hall of the Atlanta Public Schools has noted that the district school near where a charter school opens generally sees significant improvement, which East Lake Elementary’s improvement alongside Drew Charter is an example.  I believe that charter schools and district schools are complimentary, should work together, can learn from each other and are both part of our strategy to provide a great public education to every child.

I hope this helps answers any questions you have on my educational views.  Please feel free to share and follow up with any additional questions you have.

Graham

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4 Responses to Balch Responds: No Love for Vouchers

  1. JMPrince says:

    Everyone needs to debate, and nearly everyone is helped by that too. JMP

  2. parker404 says:

    Balch gives a well thought out and practical position. Too bad Sen. Fort refuses to debate him on substantive issues rather than sending out “ghetto” mailers.