Senate Lawmakers Say 'No' to Third Private School Voucher Program
The Senate rejected SB 601, authored by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), which aims to create Georgia’s third private school voucher program. The vote came after an hour of vigorous debate, which began with Miller’s presentation of the proposed voucher program. He stated that the voucher—$6,000 for each student—would enable students to leave “failing” schools, though the bill does not limit participation to students in schools identified as low performing. Miller also contended that the bill would not harm public schools financially.
Several senators spoke against the bill, including Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) who explained that the $6,000 voucher exceeds the amount school districts are allocated for most students under the state Quality Basic Education (QBE) school funding formula. She held that the accountability measures in SB 601 are below those applied to public schools and highlighted the lack of vetting the bill received in the Senate Education & Youth Committee, which did not take public comment on it. Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) asserted that parents provide adequate accountability for the private schools that would receive public funds through the voucher program. Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) held that public schools would not be harmed financially as the state would invest in participating students whether they attended public schools or private, and districts’ local funds would not be affected.
The bill was defeated with a vote of 29 “no” and 20 “yes.”
Thanks to PAGE members who contacted their senators with concerns about SB 601. Your engagement with lawmakers makes a difference. Though a Senate voting record was not available as of publication of this report, an image of the Senate floor vote is included above. Red indicates a “no” vote; green, a “yes” vote; and, yellow, an “excused absence.”
Additional Education Senate Bills Move Forward to House
SB 498 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) would require accreditation agencies to base accreditation of high schools or school systems on measures of student learning and financial efficiency.
SB 545 from Sen. Sonya Halpern (D-Atlanta) would require high schools to add first aid to required training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillator requirements and provide the training to students in grades 9 and 10. The training must be for a minimum of one hour.
SB 575 authored by Sen. Tippins would allow local boards of education to review district financial information quarterly instead of monthly, as currently required.
SB 588 also from Sen. Miller would require school board meetings to be open to the public and prohibits the removal of a member of the public from a board meeting, except for disruption of the meeting. Note: These requirements already exist in state law.
SB 603 sponsored by Sen. Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville) would authorize the Georgia Department of Education to undertake and evaluate a pilot of outdoor learning spaces in the 2022-2023 school year.
These bills now move to the House for consideration.
House Approves Recess and Other Ed-Related Legislation
HB 1283 by Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) would require recess for all students in grades one through five on days they do not have structured activities or physical education classes.
HB 1482 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer) revises eligibility criteria for project-specific capital outlay grants for low-wealth school systems.
HB 1184 by Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) allows students to take SAT and ACT college entrance exams in school, up to three times. Schools can opt-in to providing the tests. Students are not required to participate.
HB 1387 by Rep. J. Collins (R-Villa Rica) strengthens punishment for failing to promptly pay fines for passing a school bus in a school zone.
These bills now move to the Senate for consideration.
Wednesday, March 16, Legislative Day 29
Senate Retirement Committee, 10 a.m., 310 CLOB
Thursday, March 17, Legislative Day 30
Friday, March 18, Legislative Day 31