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Day 35: House Narrowly Passes Georgia’s Third Voucher Program

A bill creating Georgia's third voucher program moved from committee to House approval in 24 hours. Yesterday (March 13), a party-line vote moved SB 233, PAGE-opposed voucher legislation, out of the House Education Committee. The bill seeks to create Georgia’s third private school voucher program and links it to teacher pay. SB 233 then moved rapidly through the legislative process. This morning, the House Rules Committee scheduled it for a floor vote, where it narrowly passed 91-82.


House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) presented the bill and outlined its recent changes. These changes include adding a funding cap and sunset date to the program while prioritizing funding for families making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill codifies recent teacher salary increases and also adds proposals that existed as separate bills such as additional funding for Pre-K, increases to a public school tax credit, and simplified inter-district public school transfers. A summary and analysis of the changes to SB 233 can be found HERE.


Supporters of the legislation, including Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), Rep. Matt Reeves (R-Duluth), and Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) claimed SB 233 would provide additional choices to students trapped in failing schools while also touting recent increases in public school funding and the new sections of the bill they see as beneficial to public schools. Multiple supporters also noted that leadership in the House and Senate and Gov. Brian Kemp were pushing for SB 233.


Opponents of the bill, including Rep. Miriam Paris (D-Macon), David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs), and Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) pointed out that many students, especially those in rural areas, would not benefit from the new voucher program. They called on lawmakers to provide further support to public schools instead of diverting funds to an additional voucher program. Rep. Lisa Campbell (D-Kennesaw) highlighted a recent AJC poll showing widespread opposition to private school vouchers while Rep. Karlton Howard (D-Augusta) noted that private schools that take part in this voucher program can still reject any student for any reason.


Rep. Vance Smith (R- Pine Mountain) also spoke against the bill, recommending that the state look into issues affecting public schools instead of moving the bill. He also asked what would be done to support the students left behind when others leave with vouchers.


PAGE appreciates these opponents and their statements along with Representatives Becky Evans (D-Atlanta), Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia), and Saira Draper (D-Atlanta) who also spoke against the bill.


At the conclusion of debate, as chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer) was allotted speaking time. He spoke in support of the bill, saying it would provide options to students trapped in failing schools. Rep. Erwin yielded the remainder of his time to Pro Tem  Jones, who summarized SB 233 as a measured approach with a goal of helping children. She again highlighted the funding cap and sunset measures added to the bill yesterday.


By a vote of 91-82 the House of Representatives narrowly passed SB 233. Ninety-one votes were required to pass the measure.  The bill now heads back to the Senate which will consider the House changes and make a motion to agree or disagree to the version of SB 233 passed by the House.


PAGE thanks those who continued to vote against this bill despite intense political pressure. PAGE will continue to monitor the legislation as it moves toward final passage.


Please find the video of the bill debate and the vote below. The relevant section begins shortly after the two-hour mark.



Thank Bipartisan House Group Who Voted No on SB 233

Please join PAGE in thanking House members who voted "No" on SB 233. Review the House voting record here, and use your address to look up your House member’s contact information here. All House member contact information is available here.  


If your representative voted "Yes," please consider sending them a note to express your concern and ask that they hold firm regarding caps on and evaluation of Georgia’s voucher programs, as voucher costs in other states have soared, endangering funding for education and other essential public services.  


The most effective messages:

  • State your county or city in the subject line.

  • Are from your personal email address and electronic address and not sent during instructional time.

  • Reiterate your support for the students you serve.

  • Build an ongoing relationship with your House member and are not inflammatory.

Senate Passes ASVAB Administration Bill

With a vote of 36-1, the Senate passed HB 995, sponsored by Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense. The bill requires the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a nationally recognized multiple-aptitude battery assessment intended to measure and predict academic and occupational success in the military, to public school students in grades 11 and 12 who choose to participate. Parents and guardians may opt their children out of test administration.


Comments By Senator Draw Rebuke from Speaker, House Membership

While the SB 233 debate occurred on the House floor, on the Senate floor, while speaking on a measure intended to honor and name a building for former House Speaker David Ralston, Sen. Colton Moore (R- Trenton) went to the Senate well and made highly critical remarks regarding the former speaker, who died in 2022. Immediately after the SB 233 vote, House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) spoke in strong response, citing the House’s ability to disagree respectfully during the voucher debate. Burns instructed the House doorkeepers to bar Sen. Moore from the House chamber, and Burns' action received widespread, bipartisan support from the House membership. 


Upcoming Schedule 

 

Monday, March 18 – Legislative Day 36

  • 1 p.m. House Higher Education, 406 CLOB

Tuesday March 19 – Committee Workday

 

Wednesday, March 20 – Legislative Day 37

 

Thursday, March 21 – Legislative Day 38

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