Georgia Pulls Off Funding For Private School Tuition

The Georgia State House on March 14 approved school voucher legislation, finally achieving a goal that has eluded the state’s school choice advocates for years, the Associated Press reported.

In a 91-82 vote, the Georgia House finally approved Senate Bill 233, which would provide families with a $6,500 a year subsidy for private schools, after overcoming the GOP opposition that tanked the bill last year when 16 Republican state Reps. voted against it.

Seven of the 16 Republicans flipped their votes to Yes this time around. Additionally, the bill gained the support of one Democrat lawmaker who also voted against it last year.

The Republicans who opposed the bill last year expressed concern over the cost to taxpayers and the impact on local school districts.

The bill is expected to cost Georgia taxpayers $140 million a year.

Proponents of the bill argued that it would help poor families get their children out of failing public schools. Democrats, however, argued that the bill would largely help affluent families while poor kids in rural areas with no private schools are left behind.

Democrat state Rep. Miriam Paris of Macon opposed the legislation, arguing that the measure was designed to “defund public education,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

With the House’s approval, SB 233 will now return to the Senate for a final vote.

Governor Brian Kemp is expected to sign the bill. The Republican governor supports the school voucher plan and devoted a significant portion of his recent State of the State address to promoting the measure.

Under the bill, the $6,500 subsidy could be used to pay for private school tuition or support homeschooling. Parents could also use the money on tutoring, therapy, or college-level courses for high school students.

State House Speaker Jon Burns, a Republican, said in a statement following the vote that the bill would empower Georgia parents “to make the best educational decisions for their children” while providing them with the “tools to succeed for generations to come.”