Rogers Receives Education ‘Reformer of the Year’ Award
According to a July 25th campaign e-newsletter, State Senator Chip
Rogers has been named Education “Reformer of the Year” by
Students
First
, and received endorsements from the Foundation of Education
Excellence
and State Superintendent John Barge.

Students First ‘Reformer of the Year’ Rogers Champions
Legislation Prohibiting Transparency and Accountability of
Education Funds
Another award tied to Rogers was the ‘2012 Black Hole Award’ which was
awarded to the Student Scholarship (voucher) Program (championed by
Rogers).  While we have not seen any mention of this award in his
campaign newsletters, EmpowerED Georgia thinks it also merits attention.  
The Society of Professional Journalists has raised concerns about this law
as it “makes it a criminal offense to disclose virtually any meaningful
information about the program to the public. Georgia’s law fails to hold
anyone accountable for how they divert or spend tax funds. It does not
track who is receiving scholarships under the program."

While Rogers has long supported the expansion of vouchers, including a
complete conversion to a system of vouchers, EmpowerED Georgia is
concerned that this goes beyond the issue of vouchers and creates issues
of accountability and transparency concerning how taxpayer money is
spent.

According to the
AJC, in a recent debate Rogers “favor[ed] an immediate,
statewide conversion to a system of school vouchers.”  When asked how
quickly a voucher system should be created? Rogers response was
“Yesterday.”  Not only does Rogers advocate for privatizing public
education, he is now preventing taxpayers, not only from being able to see
how their money is spent, but from questioning government spending
altogether.  
The Society of Professional Journalists have serious concerns
about this move as this allows for the diversion of “…over $125 million so
far from the state treasury. The law allows for tax credits to support
scholarships at private schools without tracking which schools or students
get funding or disclosing publicly anything about how the state money is
spent by private organizations.”

According to an
AJC report: “The Legislature this year made some
changes to the 2008 law that created the scholarship program, and the
new law makes it a crime for state officials to release key information about
the program.”  The legislation has also received national coverage in a
recent
NY Times report.

With Rogers’ signature education legislation (scholarship program)
receiving such backlash due to its lack of accountability and transparency,
why does Students First see Rogers as a national education reformer?

Related: Students First Also Endorsed State Representative Alisha
Morgan
; Read EmpowerED Georgia's piece on the Ties between Morgan's
Education Agenda and Lobbyists


Foundation of Education Excellence: For Students or For Profit?
Also in the e-newsletter, Rogers announced that he earned the
endorsement of the
Foundation of Education Excellence (FEE).  Though
Rogers’ legislative record fits perfectly with FEE’s mission to “expand
educational choice to more parents and students to bringing digital
learning into America's classrooms,” EmpowerED Georgia is deeply
troubled by the
laundry list of for-profit companies that donate to FEE.  
These same for-profit companies benefit the most from the reforms being
promoted by FEE and Rogers.

Major donors include:

Online Learning Specialists:

Expanded Classroom Technology

Standardized Curriculum/Testing

For-Profit Charter School Expansion/Management

The Foundation of Education Excellence is putting the interests of for-profit
companies over the interests of students, while promoting their agenda
under the veil of “reform.”  Rogers ‘reform’ seems to champion for-profit
companies’ interests over that of public school students (
Rogers
sponsored legislation mandating online education for students even though
research on the effectiveness of online learning has been mix).

EmpowerED Georgia is deeply troubled by the influence of for-profit
companies in promoting education reform.  In keeping with our mission,
EmpowerED Georgia remains committed to advocating for a quality
education for every child and is concerned by Rogers’ alliance with
companies that are only interested in their bottom line and his continued
insistence on privatizing Georgia’s public education system.

The Foundation of Education Excellence promotes expanding digital
learning, a standardized curriculum/testing system, and charters.  The
connection between the FEE’s major donors and the efforts of FEE and
Rogers is clear.  FEE’s donors benefit financially from FEE’s goals.

We believe that the services of for-profit companies certainly have a place
in education, but these companies should not be the driving force behind
reforms that will ultimately enhance their bottom line and not student
performance.  It is troubling that this endorsement is one that Rogers is so
eager to tout.


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EmpowerED Georgia is an
education advocacy group made up
of over 3,500 members -- students,
parents, educators, and concerned