Dick Yarbrough: Does anybody care what Georgia’s school teachers think?

Published 5:50 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Well, public schoolteachers, they are at it again. “They” are our intrepid public servants under the Gold Dome, who siphoned $100 million out of the state budget for tax credits so parents can avoid sending their kids to public schools in Georgia.
In their inimitable wisdom, they have decided public schools are the pits — or as our esteemed Secretary of Education in Washington, Betsy Devos opined, a “dead end” — due to the problems of poverty, apathetic parents (assuming there are two), gangs, drugs, transiency, discipline, enough red tape to cover the Great Wall of China, kids who carry a sense of entitlement bigger than their book bag, and a host of other matters you must deal with when not teaching to the test as mandated by a bunch of out-of-touch bureaucrats.
Somehow, I have had this nagging feeling that you didn’t cause these problems and that you haven’t figured out a way to shut the door on issues that extend beyond the classroom and are not of your own making. Maybe this one falls on our society and maybe the intrepid public servants who are hosing you and the public schools should spend a little more time trying to solve some of these problems instead of running away from them and taking our tax dollars with them. Or, maybe the sun will rise in the west.
Now, they have decided it might be neat-o if we all went back to having everyone take the summer off, like the good ol’ days and forget local control and local conditions. One size fits all school systems. Actually, I suspect this wasn’t their idea at all. This one is the brainchild of the tourism business in the state. It is easier to accommodate their needs instead of them adjusting to yours.
State Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, was the chief co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 1068, that has established the (inhale) Senate Study Committee on Evaluating the School Year Calendar of Georgia Public Schools (exhale.) In one of those quirks of fate that can only happen in politics, Gooch was then appointed chairman of the study committee by none other than Lt. Gov. Casey “Bad Policy” Cagle, who whispered the good news to the senator’s cufflink.
Sen. Gooch said he is worried about starting school so early these days because of the danger to student-athletes and the cost of air conditioning the district school buildings — maybe a $100 million tax credit would help — and the cheap labor — my words, not his — that students provide resorts and tourist attractions in the state.
“We look forward to hearing from all key stakeholders on how this shift would impact our public schools, students, parents, and the tourism industry,” said the senator.
The Georgia Travel Association hailed the Senate’s effort “for taking steps to fully examine Georgia’s school start date and its impact on the state’s tourism industry.” The organization’s executive director Kelsey Moore, said, “We look forward to working with this committee to take a comprehensive look at an issue that has a significant impact on our students, families and communities.”
OK, schoolteachers, a test: Did you notice anywhere in either announcement where our intrepid public servants or the touristers mentioned you? What do the schoolteachers think of the idea? Who cares? This isn’t about you. This is about the tourist industry’s bottom line.
Angela Palm, the Georgia School Boards Association’s policy and legislative services director, notes that “every time this proposal has come up, it’s been related to economic development and tourism, it’s not been related to education.”
Noted economist Milton Friedman once declared “the business of business is business” and that the only social responsibility of business is “to increase its profits.” For the senator and the GTA to claim otherwise is putting lipstick on a pig.
I have no problem going back to the old way. I got a pretty fair education in a public school with three months off, except for the day I missed class when they covered punctuation. I also understand capitalism. I was an officer of one of the largest corporations in America. Nobody needs to explain bottom lines to me.
Just don’t couch this effort as having our public schools’ interests — or yours — at heart by fretting over air conditioning and student-athletes and the like. That is horse patoot. This is about the business of business, schoolteachers. Know that and know whatever happens, you will be the one held responsible to make it work. Isn’t that the way it always is?

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb