Student voucher bill passes Georgia Senate
The Georgia Senate on Monday passed legislation that would give parents $6,000 in state funding to help them pay for private school education for their children.
Why it matters: Some opponents of the legislation said it would siphon dollars away from public schools and only serve parents who would otherwise enroll their children in private schools.
- The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which opposed the bill, said the program could also cost more than $180 million over the next five years.
Driving the news: Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, passed 33-23 and now moves to the state House.
- The bill cleared the Senate hours before the Crossover deadline, the day when legislation that's been introduced has to pass one chamber to have a chance of becoming law.
How it works: The legislation would give a $6,000 voucher to participating students to enroll in a private school that accepts the scholarship, which provides no limit on how many students can apply.
- Funds could also be used to cover tutoring fees, therapy for special needs students and transportation to the participating school.
- The Georgia Student Finance Commission would be tasked with managing the accounts for the program.
- The Commission would choose no fewer than three nationally "norm referenced tests" (think Iowa Test of Basic Skills) to measure the academic performance of participating students.
What they're saying: Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) said during Monday's floor debate that his legislation will give parents more control over their children's education.
- "I know that if I were to ask all of you if you think you can make the best decision for your child, every one of you would say yes," Dolezal said. "Let's trust the rest of Georgia parents to do the same."
The other side: Several Democratic senators spoke in opposition of the bill. State Sen. Jason Esteves (D-Atlanta), a former Atlanta Board of Education member, said the bill does nothing to address poverty and literacy.
- Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson) said the state has been "underfunding schools" for nearly 20 years.
- "We cannot afford to fund two different educational systems, one public, one private, on the taxpayers' dime," she said, adding she enrolled her child into private schools without taxpayer assistance.
The big picture: Georgia already has two programs that make it easier for public school parents to afford private schools.
- The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship allows parents of students with an individualized education plan to transfer to other public or private schools.
- Another one, Georgia Private School Tax Credit, allows people to receive state tax credits for donating to Student Scholarship Organizations, which helps parents pay for their child's private school education.
What we're watching: The bill still needs a vote in the House.
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