Georgia senate bill proposes vouchers for eligible students

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Georgia lawmakers are hoping to give parents more options when it comes to educating their kids.

Senate Bill 233 or the ‘Georgia Promise Scholarship Act’ is on its way to be reviewed by State House Representatives. The bill would create a voucher program giving parents the choice on what form of learning their child should partake in.

Families who have children who go to a school that is under-performing could be eligible for the grant that would provide the necessary funding for a parent to possibly enroll their child in private school, homeschool, even or virtual learning.

“This gives parents rich or poor an opportunity to take access into other education,” says Georgia Senator Colton Moore (R). “We see the free market principle work in all areas of business and, to me, providing a little competition in the system especially these under-performing schools, that’s a great way to get people back on track and competing with one another.”

If passed, SB 233 will provide a voucher of $6,000 for a parent’s choice of form of education for their child.

“I would use it because it would be beneficial towards my child and her education,” says Alexandria Smith, mother of a 3-year-old.

Smith says she would use it to send her daughter to private school.

“I would prefer for her to be private because I know for a fact it would be closed in and good for her education, you know, it would be a purpose behind it; but public, I have no problem with public, I just know private would be better for her,” says Smith.

Some are concerned that this grant will take away state funding from public education. Moore explains that would not be the case.

“To teach a student, it costs about $11,000 and the state offers $7,000, but if we’re only giving $6,000, there is still all of those local tax dollars that remain in the school system,’ says Moore.

Muscogee County school board member, Patricia Hugley-Green says public schools should be the main priority for government funding, since more than 90% of school-aged children attend public school in the county.

“Public education is the great equalizer and it should be fully funded, appropriately funded and it should be priority, says Hugley-Green. “If you are diverting any funds from public education, you are not making public education a priority.”

This piece of legislation brings up a lot of concern related to standardized testing and accountability for private schools.

“That same accountability for testing, that same accountability for having quality based education, that needs to be also a requirement for private schools,” says Green.

Moore shares that those factors are being considered.

“If a private school is going to take this voucher, they too, are going to have to take the same standardized test that regular public schools will. In addition to homeschools kids, {they] are going to have to take a similar standardized test that way the money is still accounted for,” says Moore.

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act is heading to the House where representatives will make changes to it and then back to Senate for consideration. If it passes, then Governor Kemp will have the option of signing it into law.

The bill’s primary sponsors are Sens. Greg Dolezal, Matt Brass, Shawn Still, Colton Moore, Ed Setzler, Steve Gooch, John Kennedy, and Ben Watson.

Gabriela Johnson

Gabriela Johnson

Gabriela joined the News Leader 9 team as a reporter in July 2022.