Are you ready for the Warnock tax increase? No? You haven't heard of it? You aren't alone. Even though Senator Warnock's campaign and media allies have been covering his opponent nonstop, no one has talked about how the reverend's decisive vote for the American Rescue Plan right after taking office in 2021 is bringing big changes to Georgia schools and will soon lead to an unexpected and significant property tax increase for most Georgians.
The lack of knowledge about this is not surprising, because most people are too busy dealing with the effects of inflation and undeclared wars with Russia, etc. When faced with such a situation, taxes are easy to forget about.
This is how Senator Warnock gave you sweeping changes in schools and looming property tax increases.
The multi-trillion-dollar relief package passed after Biden's inauguration included $123 billion for K-12 education. $109 billion went directly to school districts. More than $4 billion were distributed to local school districts across Georgia. It could be used for a variety of purposes. One use in particular, Social Emotional Learning, became popular very quickly thanks to guidance from the Biden education department and national education organizations.
At least 120 of 180 Georgia school districts paid vendors from the social and emotional learning field between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. Many school districts were just testing the waters and only spent a few thousand dollars on pilot programs or testing platforms or curriculums. While other districts jumped right into SEL with contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and lasting for several years.
It can be seen in the school board minutes of many districts who piloted SEL programs last year that many are moving forward with whole district SEL programs. A district's social emotional learning vendor is but one of the elements involved in implementing SEL. The districts also hire a lot of new staff to support it. A variety of professionals like counselors, social workers, teachers, administrators, behavior aides, and others. Additional personnel costs can equal or exceed the cost of SEL curriculums or platforms.
SEL is already on its way to public schools in Georgia, no matter what you think about it. Most traditional public schools will implement it. This was made sure by Senator Warnock's vote for the American Rescue Plan and Biden's education department. The question will be how to pay for all the new curriculum resources and staff once the ARP money runs out in 2024-2025.
When the government doesn't have enough money, they seldom cut costs or downsize, especially in public education. Because the shortfalls are likely to be big, each school district will need to raise taxes to make up for it. These rate hikes will be known as Warnock tax increases. Make no mistake, they are coming. Property owners be forewarned.
All this stuff is worth it, right?
If you don't know about the SEL programs that are being used in your kids' schools, now is a good time to find out. Across the state, there are many different SEL programs being adopted, each with their own set of lessons and approaches. How each will be used will vary from district to district, school to school, and teacher to teacher, since most of the work of integrating a SEL curriculum into a child's education will be done by the teachers.
There are a lot of questions regarding accountability in SEL. For example. many of the programs focus on teaching students conscientiousness and grit. Former director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution Grover Whitehurst raised the problem of accountability in SEL in 2019 writing,
“Accountability, in turn, would require districts to assess students’ social and emotional abilities and provide supports for schools and teachers that aren’t getting the job done.
"The principle problem with this line of thinking is that there is little evidence that individual differences in broad personality traits and dispositions can be meaningfully affected through school-based programs. In fact, there is strong evidence to the contrary that comes from research by psychologists on personality going back almost 100 years.”
Additionally, many programs aim to influence specific personality attributes. Most put an emphasis on developing more empathy. This may be the most erroneous approach of all. Several years ago, Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom published a book entitled "Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion." Bloom contends that empathy is responsible for many of our society's wrong judgments.
Often, empathy leads us to make the wrong moral choices and goes against logic and reason. From foreign and domestic policies to our Bill of Rights, empathy has routinely been detrimental or made things worse. People often abuse empathy in ways that are harmful to free speech, for example. It is because of our empathy for those hurt by hateful or mean speech that censors find ample support today. Is this beneficial for democracy?
For years, Donald Trump used the story of a woman killed by illegal immigrants to make people feel empathy for her and her family and kindle a movement against legal and illegal immigration. Even though increased immigration is necessary for economic growth and meeting the entitlement demands of many of his supporters in the future. Empathy defeats rationality.
Since 1980, only .1 percent of homicides have been caused by mass shootings. However, the stories of victims have made mass shootings the main crime concern, even though other types of crime deserve much more attention.
The detrimental effects of empathy overruling rationality can be seen everywhere. What will happen when millions of children are taught to embrace empathy in all things?
All of this is taking place in schools where 30–50 percent of students cannot read at their grade level. Will SEL improve academic performance? It won't take us long to answer that question, unlike many other questions about SEL.
These are all things that parents and taxpayers should pay attention to right now. School boards need to protect students and taxpayers by putting accountability measures for SEL in place now. Voters should ask themselves if the coming Warnock tax increase is worth all of this and if he should be given another chance to do more of the same.