Georgia governor signs bill to launch ‘Promise Scholarships’

Georgia governor signs bill to launch ‘Promise Scholarships’

Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

Georgia governor signs bill to launch ‘Promise Scholarships’

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a measure to allow families to spend taxpayer money on private school tuition, which school choice proponents lauded, though critics worry it will cut resources from strapped school systems.

Senate Bill 233, the “Georgia Promise Scholarship Act,” which lawmakers passed after killing the proposal last year. Under the measure, students who attend a public school that ranks in the bottom 25% in terms of academic performance are eligible for annual $6,500 scholarships.

“It recognizes that Georgia is a diverse state with a diverse set of needs for education,” Buzz Brockway, the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s vice president of public policy, said in a statement. “After years of work, this bill is a positive step toward shaping an education system that honors every child’s unique situation and prevents a lack of quality education from locking children and communities into poverty.”

Public School Transfers: How to Go to a School You’re Not Zoned for in Georgia

Public School Transfers: How to Go to a School You’re Not Zoned for in Georgia

Mother walking students to a local public school.

Public School Transfers: How to Go to a School You’re Not Zoned for in Georgia

Key Points

  • Public school transfers are an education option that allows parents to move their child to a public school they’re not zoned for (as long as the school has space). 
  • Georgia currently allows public school transfers within a student’s current district, but not outside of it. 
  • Parents must apply for a public school transfer. Scroll down to find out how to check with your local school district for availability and application deadlines.

Public school transfers explained

Public school transfers, also referred to as open enrollment for public schools, allow parents to move their student to a public school different from the one they’re zoned for. 

This is a great option for states to provide because it increases flexibility within the public school system—something parents increasingly want. The majority of Georgia students (84%) attend public school, so transfers are a way to empower parents to choose the public school environment that’s right for their child.

Types of public school transfers available in Georgia

  • Allowed: Transfers within assigned school districts. Georgia offers restricted public school transfers. Families can send their child to any school within their assigned local district as long as that school has space and has been operating for at least four years. This option is known as intra-district transfer. 

  • Not yet allowed: Transfers outside of assigned school districts. Another type of public school transfer, called “inter-district transfer,” permits students to switch to a public school outside of the district they are zoned for. This option is not allowed in Georgia yet. Georgia lawmakers would need to pass a bill to make it available to families.

There’s a better vision for education in Georgia: Every child able to access quality education without restrictions of wealth, race, circumstances of birth, or zip code.  

There’s a better vision for education in Georgia: Every child able to access quality education without restrictions of wealth, race, circumstances of birth, or zip code.

How Georgia’s public school transfers work

Parents must contact the local school system to see which schools will accept transfers and for which grades. The Georgia Department of Education provides a list of public school contact information

Each school system is required to notify parents by July 1 about which schools have space. Many systems post this information on their websites before July 1. Most districts only allow transfers at the beginning of the school year, but all can elect to accept students throughout the year. 

Parents must then apply for a transfer though their district’s website, at the district office, or at the local school. If more students apply than there is space available, some school systems will make decisions on a first come, first served basis. Others will hold a random lottery.

Apply for a public school transfer: Requirements and steps to know

Parents must contact the local school system to see which schools will accept transfers and for which grades. The Georgia Department of Education provides a list of public school contact information

Each school system is required to notify parents by July 1 about which schools have space. Many systems post this information on their websites before July 1. Most districts only allow transfers at the beginning of the school year, but all can elect to accept students throughout the year. 

Parents apply for a transfer though their district’s website, at the district office, or at the local school. If more students apply than there is space available, some school systems will make decisions on a first come, first served basis. Others will hold a random lottery.

Eligibility requirements 

  • A student must be enrolled in a public school in Georgia. 

School options

  • Transfers open up access to other public schools within a student’s neighborhood. 
  • Transfers do not apply to public schools outside a student’s assigned district. They also do not apply to non-public schools. 
  • A student who transfers to another public school may continue to attend that school until completing all grades of the school.

Cost to families 

  • School systems cannot charge tuition for students transferring within their district. 
  • Transportation is the responsibility of the parent/guardian. 

Five application steps to know

1. Contact your local school system to see which schools accept transfers and in which grades.

2. Check your school system’s website by July 1. Each system is required to notify parents annually about which schools have space available. State law requires school systems to post this information by July 1, but it’s often available earlier so consider setting a reminder to check the website as early as April or May.

3. Access a transfer request on your district’s website, at the district office, or at your local school. Complete the transfer application (note: some school systems require parents to do this step in person at the district office).

4. Application periods can be as short as one to two weeks. For many districts, this application window is in June or July. In other areas, it can be as early as January. Get in touch with your district or check their website early and often so you don’t miss any deadlines.

5. The school system will notify parents about whether their transfer request was accepted or denied. If more students apply than there is space available, school systems will make decisions on a first come, first served basis or through a random lottery. 

How Georgia can expand public school options 

Georgia lawmakers could expand opportunities within the public school system by removing all restrictions on transfers and allowing both inter-district transfers (access to public schools in different districts) and intra-district transfers (access to public schools in a student’s current district).

To set up a successful transfer program, there are a couple of state examples Georgia could look to:

Example: Florida’s unrestricted open enrollment

Example: Wisconsin’s open access to any school district

  • Over 70,000 students are thriving in school, thanks to Wisconsin’s cross-district open enrollment policy, which allows students access to any public school inside or outside of their district.
  • A unique feature of Wisconsin’s program is that, when a student moves to a new school district, a large chunk of their state funding goes with them. Another portion is left behind in the student’s old district to help offset costs associated with student transfers.
  • Through this arrangement, families can meet their needs, and public schools enjoy an incentive to accept transfers.

In the 2024 legislative session, the Georgia Senate is considering a bill (Senate Bill 147) that would let students transfer to a different public school either in their current district or outside of it. 

Georgia governor signs bill to launch ‘Promise Scholarships’

Contested education reforms loom over Georgia’s legislative session

Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

Contested education reforms loom over Georgia’s legislative session

Perhaps more than any time in recent memory, education-related bills look to dominate the current legislative session. If last year is any indicator, these measures may redraw political alliances and lead to heated debates. As is always the case, not every proposal is created equally, and in a legislative world that requires compromise, initial bill language often isn’t the author’s best and final offer.

 

One notable holdover from last year that will certainly make some noise is Senate Bill 233—also known as The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act—which Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, introduced. “Funded by the state in the amount of $6,000 per student for each school year, Promise Scholarships would allow families to find the right fit for their students’ education,” reads an article by local think tank the Georgia Center for Opportunity.

 Read the full article here

 

Georgia governor signs bill to launch ‘Promise Scholarships’

Community-led city improvement group to hold open meeting next week

Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

Community-led city improvement group to hold open meeting next week

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Locals seeking change in the community have an upcoming opportunity to meet with others who share that goal. On Jan. 30, the Columbus Empowerment Initiative will hold its first open meeting, starting at 10 a.m. at the Columbus Public Library.

Organizers hope the project will be successful in Columbus. While the initiative is still new in the city – it’s first meeting was held in October 2023 – similar projects have run in other cities, including Omaha, Neb.

Group founders encourage people from all sectors of the community to show up to next week’s meeting. 

 

Year in Review: A look back at how opportunity expanded in 2023

Year in Review: A look back at how opportunity expanded in 2023

new years resolution, 2024, year in review

Year in Review: A look back at how opportunity expanded in 2023

Key Points

  • Research has shown that safe communities, stable relationships, and meaningful education and work are essential to making poverty escapable. 
  • In 2023, we focused on helping communities develop solutions and tools to improve public safety, jobs, education and student achievement, and family formation. 
  • Through these accomplishments in 2023, more communities are being empowered to help people imagine and pursue better futures for themselves. 

It seems like everywhere you go these days, people are struggling. You can see it on street corners, in grocery stores, in news headlines, and—most heartbreaking of all—in the eyes of the people who have lost hope.

What they need is opportunity. And that’s exactly what the mission of the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is built to deliver. As the year draws to a close, let’s take a moment to celebrate the good that has been done to alleviate poverty by removing barriers to opportunity and creating conditions that empower people to flourish and achieve their full potential.

The good news is that research consistently shows that people who experience personal safety, get a good education, find meaningful work, and have healthy, committed relationships only have a 2% chance of falling into poverty. And for those currently living in poverty, these opportunities are the way out to experience freedom and flourishing.

In 2023, GCO celebrated big wins in several key areas that foster community transformation: public safety, jobs, education, and family formation. Here are a few examples of how we’ve helped our neighbors live better and build thriving communities. 

Public safety

Thanks to our public safety research, we convened state policymakers and city leaders in Atlanta and Columbus to look at the causes of increasing violence, and provided a proven set of practical solutions for reducing crime—especially in low-income communities. At the national level, our public safety recommendations were well received in Dallas and Louisville, and an opinion piece we co-authored reached 28.7 million people through Newsweek. Soon thereafter, MSN and other media outlets amplified its reach to another 167.1 million Americans.

And given how important it is for people to live in safe communities where they feel comfortable walking around and living their lives, we also created a resource page on our website so that elected officials, law enforcement, and community leaders can easily find the best practices for addressing crime. 

 

Workforce

On the jobs front, our BETTER WORK program continues to help communities build local employment support systems that bring employers, nonprofits, and community partners together to help more Georgians find local jobs. We’ve also joined forces with Lyft to help people get to work and focused on solutions to the benefits cliff challenges that keep many mired in government dependency. 

 

Safety-net reform

This year, GCO remained on the vanguard of educating lawmakers and the public about the need for reforming the safety net. Broadly, we worked to reveal the challenges posed by benefits cliffs, which discourage people from looking for meaningful work and gaining independence. Specifically, we expanded our impact to Utah, Arkansas, and Missouri, in addition to launching a redesigned benefits cliffs website and calculator that adds Utah and West Virginia to the models.

As we educate states and businesses about the benefits cliff problem within the welfare system, we are also developing solutions that equip them to do something about it. This year, we released our first report focused on benefits cliffs solutions, which focused on fixes for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

 

Education

Our efforts to expand educational opportunity have given nearly 84,000 Georgia kids access to the schooling option that best fits their needs. And we led efforts to advance a groundbreaking school choice bill through the state senate. This means there’s strong momentum going into 2024 to expand education options for 500,000 more students stuck in Georgia’s failing schools. We also updated our Education Guide for parents and received the Lilburn Middle School Business Partner Recognition Award for partnering to deliver free relationship education classes for parents and students.

See How The Georgia Center For Opportunity Is Expanding Hope In 2024!

See How The Georgia Center For Opportunity Is Expanding Hope In 2024!

  

Family

For families, parents continued to graduate from our Strengthening Families Program. And GCO kicked off our Raising Highly Capable Kids (RHCK) program with a vision-casting meeting attended by more than 20 community organizations. By reaching into homes, schools, and faith-based groups, RHCK teaches parents how to raise responsible, caring kids—and turns local communities into nurturing places where healthy families help people escape poverty. An example of how RHCK brings key stakeholders together to foster thriving families is the Lilly Endowment grant that introduced the Parents First Initiative to Lawrenceville.

 

National and state impact

Finally, GCO had a number of important wins with far-reaching, favorable media coverage on topics we care deeply about. This means that our voice was out there advancing importance conversations about human flourishing. For example, The Wall Street Journal ran our opinion piece calling out pre- and post-COVID crime comparisons for what they really are—an excuse not to blame bad public safety policies. And RealClearPolicy ran an article on our ideas to make safety nets more successful at turning welfare into work support.

Beyond these, GCO’s views were featured in important conversations about Georgia’s position among the leading states for economic freedom and why people remain trapped in poverty when there are so many public assistance programs. And for those concerned about rising crime across the nation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution carried our must-read piece on public safety.

 

Wrapping up

Of course, these are just a handful of GCO’s successes in 2023. Yet each win adds to the legacy we are building to help our neighbors enjoy meaningful and productive lives in safe, vibrant communities that value work, education, and family. We’re proud of our successes this year, and we look forward to continuing to advance common-sense policy solutions in 2024 that bring greater peace, dignity, and freedom to individuals and families across Georgia and beyond.