J.K. Rowling famously wrote that, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” That’s why it’s so heartening to see one Georgia Democratic lawmaker breaking with her party and backing school choice reform.
State Rep. Mesha Mainor explained her support for “The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act” in a stirring speech she recently gave on the statehouse floor. It would grant parents $6,000 in taxpayer education money that they could allocate to whatever educational opportunity, be it homeschool, private school, or their local public school, that is going to best serve their children. It would bring much-needed competition to Georgia’s education system and offer an alternative to students trapped in failing school districts.
“If you went to a McDonald’s every day and got a burnt hamburger and burnt fries, are you going to keep going back to that McDonald’s?” Mainor asked. “That’s what the children are saying: I don’t want to go where the burnt hamburger is. I want a fresh hamburger. I want a fresh education, I want something different.”
Georgia Representative Mesha Mainor (D) speaks in favor of SCHOOL CHOICE bill: "if you went to McDonald's every day and got a burnt hamburger and burnt fries, are you going to keep going back to that McDonald's?
That's what the children are saying." pic.twitter.com/qwMVl467xl
— Corey A. DeAngelis, school choice evangelist (@DeAngelisCorey) March 23, 2023
The representative also lamented the fact that many lobbyists and many of her Democratic colleagues have been very nasty to her after she broke with them on this issue.
“You do not have to treat me so badly because I am trying to help the children in community,” Mainor concluded. She deserves serious kudos for going against the mold and supporting this policy. School choice is a common-sense reform, overwhelmingly popular not just among traditional Republican voters but also among Democrats and the black community, that empowers parents and improves the system.
Mainor’s McDonald’s analogy is actually quite apt. Under the status quo in many places, students are zoned into a local public school, and unless their parents are rich and can, on top of paying heavy taxes to fund the local schools, pay private school tuition, they are left with only their local public school as an option. It has a monopoly on them as a student and the funding for their education. And monopolies aren’t exactly known for serving customers well.
When there’s no competition, there’s nothing forcing the school to actually meet the needs of the students it’s supposed to be serving. But if students and the resources intended for their education are allowed to flow to the schools doing the best job, the good schools will expand over time while the underperforming schools will shrink or, in the most extreme cases, go out of business. The end result is a higher standard of education.
Georgia currently ranks 30th out of the 50 states for K-12 education, according to U.S. News & World Report, so it clearly has plenty of room for improvement overall. Meanwhile, in some specific parts of Georgia, the education system is drastically failing. For example, in the Savannah-Chatham County school system, almost two-thirds of elementary students cannot read at grade level, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Struggling students in Georgia deserve better. This school choice legislation will give them an alternative and offer hope to countless kids who are being failed by the status quo. Elected officials like Mesha Mainor who stand up to their friends to do what’s right for kids deserve credit, not condemnation.