After Long and Emotional Debate, House Postpones Vote on Private School Voucher Bill—Vote Likely Next Week
After extensive debate lasting nearly two hours, the House postponed a vote on SB 233 from Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), which would create the state’s third private school voucher program. In a last minute move before the bill was presented to House members, SB 233 was revised in the Rules Committee to remove the requirement that participating private school students take the state assessments mandated for public school students. The testing requirement, requested by PAGE and other education groups, was added by the House Education Committee to provide parents and policymakers with comparable data to determine the effectiveness of the program. Its removal significantly diminishes the program’s transparency and undermines parents’ ability to make informed decisions about whether to participate in the voucher program.
Proponents of SB 233, including Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) and Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton), asserted the voucher program, which could also be used for other educational expenses other than private school tuition, is needed to provide options for students in low-performing schools. They also argued it would leave public schools better off financially as school districts would have local and federal dollars and only state funds would be reduced for students who leave to take a voucher.
Opponents of the bill, including Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) and Rep. Miriam Paris (D-Macon), highlighted the close link between poverty and students’ poor academic performance. Rep. Lisa Campbell (D-Kennesaw) described multiple studies that found vouchers did not improve student achievement or resulted in declines in performance, and Rep. Phil Olaleye (D-Atlanta) called on lawmakers to provide the supports that low-income students need to be successful in school. PAGE appreciates these opponents to the bill, as well as representatives Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia), Ruwa Romman (D-Duluth), Segun Adeyina (D-Grayson), David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs), Karlton Howard (D-Augusta), and Becky Evans (D-Atlanta), who spoke against the bill.
As the allotted debate time closed, Speaker Pro Tempore Jones unexpectedly moved to table -- or postpone -- a vote on SB 233. The House will be in session Monday, and a vote is likely then. If the bill passes the House, SB 233 must return to the Senate for approval of the House’s changes.
Concerned Educators, Please Contact House Members Before Monday – Thank Them for Bipartisan Support of Students, Academic Accountability, & Financial Transparency
The delay in voting was unexpected and likely means there are not currently enough votes to pass SB 233. A bipartisan group of House members has significant concerns about the bill and do not support it. Democrats who spoke against the bill are joined by a number of Republicans under enormous pressure to approve it. Both are to be commended for supporting their local public schools, academic accountability, and fiscal transparency.
In conjunction with PAGE advocacy under the Gold Dome, many PAGE members have contacted House members and encouraged them to vote "No." Please continue to do so before Monday. The tabling of SB 233 demonstrates that your advocacy significantly shapes events under the Gold Dome and focuses debate on how best to support Georgia students.
Thank your House members for their hard work during this long week and encourage them to continue standing firm against SB 233. Together, we will work toward a bright future for all Georgia students.
More information about how to contact House members is available in the recent PAGE SB 233 action alert.
FY24 Budget Moves to Conference Committee
The Senate approved its version of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget on Thursday. The House later disagreed with the Senate's version of the budget, as is customary. The Senate insisted on its position, and each chamber selected legislators to be appointed to a conference committee, which will hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget.
Once the conference committee meets, each chamber must approve the conference committee's report for the budget's final approval. It will then move on to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.
Senate Approves Bill Revising Funding & Governance Structures of Alternative High Schools
Despite having a long calendar and adjourning after 8 p.m., the Senate approved only one education bill Thursday - HB 87 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), chair of the House Education Committee. The bill seeks to change school governance, academic accountability, and funding requirements for alternative high schools. The legislation applies to Mountain Education Charter High School, Foothills Education Charter High School, and Coastal Plains Charter High School, which serve non-traditional students who have dropped out or who are at risk of dropping out.
House Passes HOPE Dual Enrollment, Epilepsy Plan, & School Accreditation Bills
The House approved three education bills today, including:
SB 86, by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan), regarding the use of HOPE grants for dual enrollment.
SB 45, sponsored by Sen. Jason Anivitarte (R-Dallas), requiring creation and implementation of seizure action plans for students with epilepsy.
SB 204 by Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), establishing specific criteria for agencies that accredit public schools, including measurements of student learning and financial efficiency.
Monday, March 27 – Legislative Day 39
Wednesday, March 29 - Legislative Day 40/Sine Die