(The Center Square) — Georgia lawmakers killed a measure to create state-funded education savings accounts.
Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, called for taxpayers to cover the cost of scholarships up to $6,500 per student per school year. The proposal would have allowed the families to use the money to defray “qualified” education costs, such as private school tuition.
The “vote makes it clear which representatives are on the side of students and families and which favor a top-down approach to education,” Americans for Prosperity – Georgia Deputy State Director Tony West said in a statement.
“This bill was a real opportunity to give Georgia parents the opportunity to choose the educational option that meets their children’s needs best,” West added. “I am disappointed that the House failed to pass such important legislation that so many other states are rightly acting on.”
According to a report from Public Funds Public Schools, a Southern Poverty Law Center and Education Law Center project, Georgia operates a “conventional voucher program” — the Special Needs Scholarship Program, launched in 2007 — and the Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit program, launched in 2008.
According to the group’s analysis, in fiscal 2009, the state’s spending on the voucher programs totaled $11.1 million, while per-pupil funding for public education was $10,536. In fiscal 2019, the state’s spending on vouchers increased to more than $109.1 million, while per-pupil funding for public education was $10,336.
The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute said the proposal was “conservatively projected to cost an additional $150 million upon full implementation.”
Georgia House Democrats took a victory lap at the bill’s defeat.
“School voucher programs do not increase student achievement,” they said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Research has shown that voucher students perform worse academically than public school students.
“Students most in need of extra support are those who are at least likely to benefit from a voucher program for a private school, as these schools are allowed to continue selective admissions,” they added. The state’s Quality Basic Education funding formula “has not been updated in decades and the cost of the voucher program is unclear. Our students need critical resources to thrive in our public education system.”
Libertarian Chase Oliver, who ran for U.S. Senate in November, responded to the statement on Twitter, saying, “You’re failing your constituents.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor