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Believing in public education
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The General Assembly did not meet this week, so I thought I would talk about why I believe so much in public education.

Public school teachers have come under a lot of fire this decade, and I believe it is largely unwarranted. There are, of course, bad teachers: the scandal in Atlanta was horrific and Clayton County has become a model of how not to run a School Board. But overall, teachers are more educated, more scrutinized, and producing more consistent results than ever before.

It’s never been harder to be a teacher than right now. There is way more accountability than ever before. Their responsibilities constantly increase while the state constantly changes their curriculum (three times in the last few years).

When Nicodemus spoke to the Carpenter, he referred to him as “teacher.” In the short chronology that was written about Him, He was given that title more than 90 times. If the son of God was happy to be called “teacher,” I think the profession might have some value in it.

Many are enchanted by the lower cost-per-child of private vs. public schools. What they forget is that public schools are the only entity who overcome – on a large scale – the effects of poverty and bad parenting. The sad truth is that more and more parents don’t do what it takes to get their kids a good start. Without public schools, huge swaths of children – generations of would-be workers – would become ignorant and unproductive. If that happens, the nation is doomed: no amount of privately-educated entrepreneurs or captains of industry could save the country.

Another thing to consider is the special needs kids and children for whom English is a second language that public schools nurture. That added capability costs money that private entities (in general) will never tackle.

I have nothing against private schools. I’m for school choice: we should always do what’s best for the individual child. But as 96% of children in Georgia go to public schools, that is where our emphasis needs to be.

John Adams, the most conservative of the Founding Fathers, said it best. “The Whole People must take upon themselves the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expenses of it…not founded by a charitable individual but maintained at the expense of the People themselves.”

Our own late Senator Paul Coverdell (R-GA) added that, “Education is the cornerstone of liberty.” He knew, as did the Founding Fathers, that a democracy can not succeed if the populace is not educated enough to make good decisions.
Ben Franklin also opined on the subject. “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”

If “a penny saved is a penny earned,” then the conservative should invest in public education so that future generations will be educated enough to make plenty of money. Otherwise, all those Social Security checks you hope to collect will simply go away.

I do not believe we should simply “throw money” at the problem. We need better schools, not more expensive ones. I also completely reject Leftist ideas of “equal outcomes.” But if there is to be any wealth in America at all, all of its children must have an equal opportunity to get a good, quality education. What those children do with that opportunity once they become adults is up to them, and frankly, the subject of most Republican vs. Democratic debates. But both parties (still) agree that - in America - every ordinary child, from any station in life, can work hard and succeed in extraordinary ways. But no child can do that without a quality education; no child can do that without good teachers.

If you want our democracy to raise a generation that can’t make a living, then go ahead and destroy our public schools. If not, I suggest you thank a teacher.

Dave Belton is the newly elected District 112 Georgia Representative. The Morgan and Newton County representative is serving in his first term in Georgia’s House.