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Day 36: Bill Creating New Private School Voucher Narrowly Passes Subcommittee

Please Keep Advocacy Calls & Emails Coming – House Education Subcommittee Narrowly Passed Private School Voucher Bill

By a vote of 7-5, the House Education Policy Subcommittee passed SB 233, PAGE-opposed legislation creating a new private school voucher program. PAGE appreciates educators who have encouraged legislators to reject the proposal. PAGE was encouraged and grateful for the bipartisan group of subcommittee members who voted against the bill.

SB 233, sponsored by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, would create Georgia’s third voucher, called an education savings account, or ESA. ESA voucher funds could be used for a variety of education-related expenses including private school tuition. The $6,000 per year ESA voucher would be available to students who reside in the attendance zone of schools in the lowest performing student achievement quartile. Learn more about SB 233, including PAGE’s objections to it, in our SB 233 brief.

In his presentation to the committee, Dolezal characterized the bill as providing options for students in failing schools. He rejected suggestions from House subcommittee members regarding more effective supports for those students, including literacy instruction enhancements and funding for student mental health and school transportation.

Committee discussion was wide ranging. Multiple members pointed out that student achievement results are closely aligned with communities’ poverty rates, and low-income families are unlikely to afford private school tuition with a $6,000 voucher.

PAGE and many others, including the Georgia PTA and several high school students from Chatham County, testified against SB 233. Unfortunately, over the objection of some Democrats on the subcommittee, several ex-officio members attended and voted for the bill, narrowly ensuring its passage. Archived footage from the meeting is available HERE.

SB 233 is slated to be considered by the full House Education Committee tomorrow morning (Tuesday, March 21). Please keep the calls and emails to committee members coming. Subcommittee members mentioned during today’s hearing that the messages make a difference.

As always, educators should use their personal (not school) email address and electronic device and contact policymakers outside of instructional time. The most persuasive legislator messages are personalized and demonstrate an educator’s commitment to the students the educator serves. Educators can use SB 233 talking points from the PAGE Day 35 Capitol Report, in addition to personalized stories about their school community.

House Education Committee Members Contact Information

Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), Chairman

Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), Vice Chairman

Rep. Lauren Daniel (R-Locust Grove), Secretary

Rep. Segun Adeyina (D-Grayson)

Rep. Bethany Ballard (R-Warner Robins)

Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia)

Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus)

Rep. David Clark (R-Buford)

Rep. Brent Cox (R-Dawsonville)

Rep. Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville)

Rep. Becky Evans (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Lydia Glaize (D-Fairburn)

Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton)

Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth)

Rep. Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Rick Townsend (R-Brunswick)

Rep. Will Wade (R-Dawsonville)

Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs)

Senate Finance Tables Tuition Tax Credit Voucher Expansion

The Senate Finance Committee tabled HB 101, which seeks to expand one of two existing Georgia private school voucher programs. In her second voucher testimony of the day, PAGE Senior Education Policy Analyst Claire Suggs testified in opposition but expressed support for several amendments proposed by Jason Esteves (D-Atlanta) and Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) designed to improve HB 101’s fiscal transparency and academic accountability.

HB 101 is sponsored by Rep. Clint Crowe (R-Jackson) and would boost the cap on Georgia's tax credit voucher program to $130 million annually in 2024. At this time, the legislation appears unlikely to make it across the Sine Die finish line.

A provision formerly contained in HB 101 extending Georgia’s existing public school tax credit program was removed and attached to HB 504, by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin). The Finance Committee approved the new version of the bill and moved it forward to Senate Rules. HB 504 formerly pertained to freeport exemptions and local five mill share calculation. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) reported the freeport exemption carried a price tag of $300 million, so Hatchett agreed to remove the exemption language and insert public school tax credit language in its place.

Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, March 21 – Legislative Day 37

  • Senate Education & Youth Committee, 8 a.m., 450 CAP

  • House Education Committee, 8 a.m., 406 CLOB

  • Senate Education & Youth Committee, 2 p.m., 307 CLOB

  • House Retirement, 2 p.m., 406 CLOB

Wednesday, March 22 – Legislative Committee Workday

Thursday, March 23 – Legislative Day 38


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