Jeff Meadors: Funding changes provide plethora of options for students

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Time to face the changes.

Twenty-first-century students have options and state commissions and legislators back them -- with cash.

High school students, even those in unaccredited home schools, demand funded tuition options. They are being served.

It's the newest twist in non-needs-based school choice not unlike Georgia Connections Academy, which held an information session at the Covington Hampton Inn earlier this month.

Charters, virtual academies and tuition-funded early college options represent a changing tide to the routine brick and mortar secondary buildings my generation called home for four years.

Charters have open enrollment yet their specialized programs draw a specific recruit. Virtual academies don't suffer gangs, drugs or bullies, don't require resource officers, save taxpayers immensely on brick and mortar costs and reduce risks of budget oversights. Early college options offer non needs-based retreats from secondary hallways and a respite for the high achiever unwilling to risk the unknowns of Advanced Placement (AP) credit conversions or the bully lurking on C Hall.

At their quarterly meeting on May 11, the Board of Commissioners of the Georgia Student Finance Commission approved a change in ACCEL funding regulations to define "eligible high school" as "any public or private secondary educational institution, including unaccredited home study or home school programs." ACCEL funds tuition, not fees or books.

Fiscal year 2011 data on Georgia students ages 5 to 17 show 47,427 in home schools.

Effective fall term of 2012 homeschool students no longer need to be enrolled in an accredited home school program to qualify for Dual Enrollment funding.

The Accel program is for students at eligible high schools, including accredited and unaccredited home schools, who wish to take college level coursework for credit towards both high school and college graduation requirements.

Students who take advantage of Accel during their junior and senior years of high school often complete 24 to 36 college semester hours fully transferable to four-year state colleges if the credits are completed at a University System of Georgia institution. Transferability to out of state and private colleges varies.

College credit awarded for AP scores above a "2" varies also. Not all AP exam scores of "3" are viewed similarly by receiving institutions so students should do their homework on AP credit.

Secondary schools enjoy a new love fest with AP courses and shovel as many students in them as classrooms hold. It's the newest game to approach a high score on the new AYP waiver score card and boast school pride, but is it right for the masses?

Students should solicit feedback from peers who have taken them and are now at four-year schools. Georgia Tech, for example, won't honor all scores of "3" in some areas. AP exams are huge money. Longitudinal data on AP pass rates in Georgia is not good.

A movement toward choice has made its case and state officials have responded. Schools will wake up to accountability at the hands of competition.

Even Clayton Delaney got religion before he died; do you remember the day?

Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education.