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Republicans Target Education With New Voucher Bill

In our last deep dive, we focused on Republican bills attacking libraries and charitable bond. This time, we are looking at SB 233, also known as ‘The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act’, which would establish a state-funded school voucher system providing $6,000 annually per student to subsidize the costs of private school tuition. This bill was previously passed by the Senate in March of 2023 and needs to be passed by the House in order to take full effect. This will be the second time the bill goes to the house after 16 House Republicans joined Democrats in defeating SB 233 last March, largely due to the negative impact this bill is expected to have on some struggling rural school districts.

The Specifics:

  • Eligibility is limited to students in the bottom 25% of public schools (a system determined by a ranking of Georgia schools based on content mastery).

  • SB 233 targets schools with majority Black populations and schools in impoverished areas, which have already been historically underfunded. 

  • School vouchers would ultimately divert public funds from public schools, leaving most students worse off while subsidizing wealthy families who already send their kids to private school.

  • Projected to cost Georgians an additional $150 million upon full implementation.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Senator Greg Dolezal, is also a key figure in the current attempts by Georgia Republicans to restrict public school libraries’ funding and censor books deemed to contain inappropriate material. The school voucher bill is clearly a direct result of the GOP’s attempts to win “culture war fights” over what children should and should not learn in public schools. Despite the claims from Republican Rep. Scott Hilton, that the school voucher bill “respects the dignity and unique gifts of every single child”, Democrats and opponents of the bill recognize the fact that this voucher program only stands to benefit pre-existing privileged families who have the means to make up the remaining tuition bill expenses. Students in rural districts, where fewer private schools exist, and where families cannot afford the difference in tuition costs, are not aided by the school voucher proposal. 

The bill was previously passed by the Senate in March of 2023. In order to take full effect, SB 233 must also pass the House and be signed off on by Governor Kemp. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute has conducted a multitude of research in response to SB 233 and found that education privatization is a right wing project committed to dismantling our public institutions and implementing a system of social control. Ultimately, the school voucher bill stands to benefit the wealthy at the expense of low-income and rural communities and worsen the state of Georgia’s already declining public education systems.

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