Georgia Parents Finally Have School Choice

The Georgia General Assembly has finally voted to approve a school choice measure that will help kids in the Peach State escape failing schools. The Senate voted 33-21 on Wednesday after the House voted 91-82 last Thursday. 

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SB 233, also called “The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act,” creates an authority to distribute school vouchers of up to $6,500 per student per school year to cover private school tuition or supplies and other expenses for homeschooling. Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) made school choice a centerpiece of his 2022 reelection campaign.

“I’m thankful to the General Assembly for giving final passage to SB 233 today to give students and families greater choice,” Kemp posted on Twitter/X.

“Today, the Senate voted to give parents greater control over their children’s educational needs,” Lt Gov. Burt Jones (R-Ga.) said in a statement. “I made passing school choice a priority and am proud of the Senate for leading the way in the most substantive initiative to pass the Georgia General Assembly in decades. This is a critical first step, but the fight does not stop to give parents choice and resources for their child’s diverse and unique educational needs.”

A similar measure failed last year when 16 House Republicans jumped ship and voted with Democrats to kill the bill. The school choice issue was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for Rep. Mesha Mainor (R-56th District) to switch parties and join the GOP. The passage of this year’s bill in the House delighted advocates of school choice.

“The most well-funded [public] school in the state absolutely may not meet the needs of every child in that school,” Rep. Jan Jones (R-47th District) told the Savannah Morning News. “Money, although we’ve done a great job of supplying it, it’s wrong to suggest that money is the only answer.”

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Mainor shared on Facebook:

I’m thrilled to share that the Georgia Promise Scholarship, SB 233, has passed the House by one vote! This is a huge win for Georgia families, particularly those living below 400% of the poverty scale. The scholarship provides $6500 for families to use in an alternative learning environment if their neighborhood school isn’t working for them. 

As someone who grew up in an underserved community with failing schools, I know firsthand the importance of educational freedom. Today, parents are going to jail in dire attempts to enroll their child in a school that is better for them. The Georgia Promise Scholarship is a step in the right direction to address this issue.

The bill also codifies teacher pay raises into law, making Georgia teachers the highest paid in the Southeast! Additionally, public schools can receive funding from tax credits, and inter-district transfers are now legal. If you live in one county but a school in another county is better suited for your child, you can now legally transfer to that school. And let’s not forget that PreK capital budget funding has increased to expand the number of PreK programs in communities.

It’s disheartening to note that every single Democrat (except 1) voted against teacher raises, increasing PreK funding, inter-district transfers, $6500 scholarship for children living in poverty, and increased public school funding from tax credits. That’s why I switched to the Republican Party. These common-sense measures positively impact children and I’m proud to support them.

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“As SB 233 will soon head to Governor Kemp’s desk, we stand on the brink of a new era for education in Georgia,” Cole Muzio of Frontline Policy said in a statement. “This victory is a shared one, made possible by each of you who raised your voices, took action, and stood firm in the belief that every child deserves access to the best education possible regardless of their zip code.”

Naturally, Democrats opposed the bill and spoke out against it. The most ridiculous and egregious argument was that the bill would lead to the segregation of schools in the Peach State. Meet the Democrat trying to unseat Mainor:

Other Democrats had more nuanced arguments, wrong as they were.

“Vouchers don’t work,” said state Rep. Miriam Paris (D-142nd District), who spoke out against the bill. “They don’t work for poor people, and they don’t work for the underserved. They don’t work for Title I schools. They only work for a certain few, and generally those few don’t need the help.”

The next step is for Kemp to sign SB 233 into law, which he reportedly plans to do quickly.

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