top of page

Day 34: Bill Creating Third Private School Voucher Program Approved by Committee and Up for Vote in House Tomorrow – Contact Your Legislators Today!

House Education Committee to Hear Bill Creating Third Private School Voucher Program

This afternoon, a House committee passed SB 233, PAGE-opposed legislation proposing creation of Georgia’s third private school voucher program and linking the bill to teacher pay raises. The full House is expected to vote on this bill tomorrow, March 14.  It was changed today to incorporate reference to public school choice and Pre-K Capital Outlay bills, which House proponents of SB 233 declined to move forward independently. 


More troubling, SB 233 supporters have attempted to tie the $2,500 educator pay raise to the voucher bill. The pay raise was announced months ago by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and was approved by the House in the FY 2025 budget.


Educator raises and proposals to increase Pre-K funding already moved most of the way through the legislative process.  These proposals should be allowed to continue across the legislative finish line because they are needed policies for Georgia students, not as incentives to create new private school vouchers.  


Please contact House members now and ask them to vote NO on SB 233. When communicating with legislators use PAGE best practices on personal electronic devices and email addresses.


Find your House member’s contact information using your home address here. Prioritize positive communication with legislators that conveys your concern about expanding private school vouchers while demonstrating your commitment to the students you serve.   


House Education Committee Approves Revised ESA Voucher Bill & School Supplies/Literacy Update Bill

The House Education Committee meeting began in an unusual manner, with House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) sitting next to Chairman Chris Erwin (R-Homer). House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration (R-Auburn) and House Majority Whip James Burchett (R-Waycross) also attended the meeting as ex officio members who have voting privileges. Burns opened the meeting by expressing his full support for SB 233. Burns said that members of majority party leadership held several meetings last summer and fall with House members, especially the 16 mostly rural Republicans who voted against the bill in 2023, to hear their concerns and other feedback. Burns said the bill empowers parents to make decisions for their students and closed his comments by saying the bill sends a message that the House does not want students “trapped in failing schools.”

 

Following Burns’ comments, House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) presented the bill. PAGE’s analysis of the changes to SB 233 is available HERE.

 

Jones began her comments by highlighting her many years on the House Education Committee and listed what she called different school choice initiatives created in Georgia, claiming Georgia’s dual enrollment, the HOPE Scholarship, equalization grants for private college students, and aspects of Georgia’s Pre-K program all as part of those initiatives due to involvement of either private students or institutions participating in those programs.

 

Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs) stated that members of the minority party received the bill only just prior to the meeting. Jones responded that Republican members of the House also received the bill only just prior to the hearing.

 

 Democratic members of the committee attempted to amend the bill twice:

  • Rep. Lydia Glaize (D-Fairburn) offered an amendment to require private schools that accept voucher funds to accept students who apply to attend the school. The amendment failed along party lines.

  • Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) offered an amendment ensuring that private schools participating in the program be required to hire only certified educators, but it also failed along party lines.

 

Rep. Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) asked Jones if educators would receive the proposed $2,500 pay raise if the bill does not pass. Jones responded that educators would, but only through appropriations and not codified in law. PAGE agrees that the weights should be updated as mandated by current law. However, this should not be done alongside attempts to create additional private school vouchers.

 

The bill moves on to the House Rules Committee for assignment for a vote by the full House. PAGE expects this vote to take place tomorrow, March 14.

 

The committee also approved SB 464 by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett), which creates the School Supplies for Teachers Program and makes changes to the selection of screeners for schools to comply with the Georgia Early Literacy Act. A thorough review of the bill and discussion from the subcommittee meeting where the bill was first approved can be found HERE. Rep. Rick Townsend (R-Brunswick) amended the bill to move the dates by which districts are required to select a screener from the, soon-to-be amended, list of screeners from 2024 to 2025. Townsend reiterated the change ensures districts have time to properly implement and train educators on the screeners. The bill passed with two "No" votes and moves to the House Rules Committee for consideration.


You can view the full meeting video below.



Education Bills Approved by Senate Subcommittee

The Senate Education & Youth Subcommittee approved the following bills. Each of the bills moves on to the full Senate Education & Youth Committee:

 

HB 51 by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) allows school districts to transport students in vehicles other than school buses. Currently, this transportation option is only open to students experiencing homelessness and special education students. Pirkle described the legislation as providing school districts with added flexibility to transport students to school and school-related activities. The State Board of Education would set the minimum standards for vehicles and drivers.

 

HB 81 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) changes Capital Outlay eligibility criteria for low-wealth school districts. Qualifying districts are those currently ranked in the bottom 25 percent of districts for purposes of sales tax revenue or those ranked in the bottom quartile for the three most recent school years. The legislation assigns the State Board of Education (SBOE) oversight authority to make related rules and regulations and says that such rules should prioritize districts with the lowest tax revenue if available state Capital Outlay funding falls short of requests for grants.

 

HB 282 by Rep. Mesha Mainor (R-Atlanta) requires districts to offer a course on career readiness. Mainor added language from another of her bills, HB 127, which requires schools to improve IEP interpreter services by adhering to interpreter standards created by the State Board of Education (SBOE). HB 127 did not pass the House by Crossover Day.

 

HB 987 by Rep. Chas Cannon (R-Moultrie) revises the definition of “qualified local school system” by reducing the minimum required millage rate or equivalent millage rate from 14 mills to 10 mills. This reduction would allow systems to further lower their millage rates and remain eligible for equalization funding, a billion-dollar state program for which more than 128 of Georgia’s 180 school districts are eligible. The bill also contains a “clawback provision” for the state to recover 25 percent of equalization funds for districts that dip below 10 mills.


Upcoming Schedule 


Thursday, March 14 – Legislative Day 35 

  •  9 a.m. House Rules Committee, 341 CAP

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page