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    Georgia Senate passes school voucher bill promising $6,500 per student for tuition

    By Maya Homan, Savannah Morning News,


    The Georgia Senate on Wednesday passed an amended education bill that would allow families to apply for up to $6,500 per child in public funds towards private school tuition.

    Senate Bill 233, also known as the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, passed in a 33-21 vote and now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk.

    “This has been a six-year journey for me,” said state Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), who first introduced the legislation during the 2023 session. “I remember my freshman year in 2019, this bill failed on the floor of the Senate, and it means the world to me that five years later we united around this tailored bill that we can all agree is a step in the right direction.”

    The current version of the bill was amended in the House last week to include a provision that would create a new Georgia Education Savings Authority. The authority would be responsible for distributing the $6,500 school vouchers to eligible families.

    The vouchers can be used to cover the cost of private school tuition, tutoring and supplies for home schooling, among other education-related expenses, and prioritizes families whose income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level.

    The funds would not come out of Quality Basic Education (QBE), the formula that determines how much money public schools across Georgia receive from the state each year. However, QBE is calculated using full-time equivalent (FTE) student counts, meaning that public schools receive less money when enrollment drops.

    Democrats in the Senate spoke out against the bill, arguing it would deprive students in already-underfunded schools from even more opportunities and resources.

    “Education is society’s greatest equalizer,” said state Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes (D-Duluth). “I grew up in a working-class family, and from elementary school to high school, I went to a predominantly low-income school where I was on the free and reduced lunch program. The idea of going to a private school was about as unrealistic as it could be.”

    “This voucher program will cost $140 million a year, and it claims to be a ladder for educational opportunity,” she said. “But in reality, it is a mirage for families like mine and for countless others across our state.”

    In his rebuttal speech, Dolezal argued that the opposition to his bill was a form of selective outrage.

    “I don’t mind if we have debates about whether public money should be going to private institutions,” Dolezal said. “But by the way, if we want to unwind that, come drop a bill to get rid of the HOPE Scholarship. Drop a bill to get rid of Medicaid. Drop a bill to get rid of Pell grants. Drop a bill to get rid of Pre-K. Because all of those programs take public money and send it to a private institution.”

    The bill will now go to Kemp, who has already expressed strong support for school vouchers throughout the legislative session. Should the bill be signed into law, the program would go into effect at the beginning of the 2025-2026 school year.

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