Georgia Senate is pushing again for a $6,000 school voucher bill

ATLANTA (AP) – Republicans in the Georgia Senate are again pushing a plan to give many students $6,000 in education vouchers. Part of a nationwide campaign for what proponents are calling educational savings accounts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The movement is fueled in part by struggles over racial education and the handling of gender issues in schools.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee voted 6-5 Tuesday to pass it Senate Act 233and sent it to the full Senate for further debate. The bill must pass the Senate by Monday for the House of Representatives to adopt it, or it will likely fail for 2023.

Proponents argue that the vouchers for private school tuition, home-schooling materials, therapy, tutoring, or even early college courses for seniors would help students who are not well served by local school districts.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio parents could soon have more taxpayer money in their pockets to send their schoolchildren to private and religious schools or to fund homeschooling under changes to a voucher program Republican lawmakers and the governor have to work out End of the month.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks during a rally for teachers and education funding Tuesday, April 25, 2023 at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas.  Leading Republicans in the Republican Party-controlled legislature are questioning the legality of their recent vetoes on points in an education-funding bill, but have backed away from a threat to sue them for their actions.  (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the Republican-controlled Kansas legislature have backed off their threat to sue the state’s Democratic governor over her vetoing parts of a Republican education funding law, saying on Thursday they still doubt the legality of her actions , but now questioning whether a judicial challenge would be possible

Nebraska State Senator Lou Ann Linehan speaks to her peers on her bill to direct public funds into scholarships for private school tuition Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The bill passed despite critics saying the measure harms public schools.  Benefits wealthy taxpayers and most notably helps parochial schools that may discriminate against LGBTQ+ students.  (AP Photo/Margery Beck)

LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that will allocate public money to grants private school tuitiondespite critics who say the measure hurts public schools, benefits wealthy taxpayers, and most importantly, helps parochial schools that can discriminate against LGBTQ+ students

Governor Kevin Stitt, President Pro Tem Greg Treat and Speaker Charles McCall, along with other members of the House and Senate, hold a joint news conference in the Blue Room of the Oklahoma State Capitol Monday, May 15 , 2023. (Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman via AP)

Oklahoma City (AP) — Public school teachers across Oklahoma will receive pay increases of up to $6,000 a year under a deal announced by Republican leaders Monday that also paves the way for a voucher-style tax credit program for families who raise their Homeschool children or send them to private school

“Even with the best of the best, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for public education,” Senator Greg Dolezal, a Cumming Republican who supports the bill, told the committee.

Opponents argue that the bill would squeeze the state’s $12.5 billion funding formula for K-12 schools and that $6,000 would not be enough to pay tuition at most private schools, which is what means that the money would benefit the middle class and rich families more than the poor.

“These failing schools are almost always in areas where these children are struggling with poverty,” Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, told the committee. “We must first fund our public schools and not continue to drain resources from our children, whose only chance for an education is in our public schools.”

However, proponents dispute these claims. Dolezal amended the bill so that no additional students could enroll in the program in a year in which the state did not provide the full amount required in the formula. He also pointed out that $6,000 is less than the average amount of state aid given to each of Georgia’s 1.75 million public school students and that local systems would keep their property tax dollars for public education .

Buzz Brockway, a former member of the Republican House of Representatives and chairman of the State Charter Schools Commission, told lawmakers that about 500,000 students in Georgia attend schools that are state-rated “D” or “F.”

“These are the kids who need our help, and they need this bill,” said Brockway, who works for the Georgia Center for Opportunity, a poverty alleviation group.

A state Senate committee heard a statement this summer by witnesses who said the state needs to put extra money into its education program for students in poverty.

“When our schools fail, it’s because they don’t have the resources they need to get the ‘A’ grade they hope for,” said Cindy Battles, a lobbyist for the liberal-leaning group People’s Agenda.

Georgia already has programs that provide vouchers for private school special education teachers and state income tax credits for donors of private school scholarship funds. A bill to increase the tax credit for private school scholarship donors from $120 million to $200 million per year is pending. The bill, up for debate on Tuesday, would allow parents to control spending as they please, including for homeschooling.

Eligible for the money would be students who are currently attending public school or kindergarten. Those who are now in private school or homeschooled would not. Participating students would have to take an annual standardized test, either by the state or by a national group, which Dolezal praised as a feature of accountability. One of the major criticisms of Georgia’s current school choice program is that it is impossible to tell how the beneficiaries are doing academically.

The prospects for the bill are unclear. state senators rejected a similar plan by a vote of 29 to 20 last year, although some Republicans who voted no may have been motivated by opposition to the then-Senator. Butch Miller’s bid for Lieutenant Governor. Miller lost a primary to current Republican Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones. The road could be even more difficult in the House of Representatives, where some rural Republicans have long opposed expanding school choice.


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