Meanwhile, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster recently signed a bill into law that eventually expands that state’s scholarship program to families at or below 200% of F&R priced lunch as well. The program is more limited in scope than Indiana’s. It will only be available to 5,000 students the first year, 10,000 the second year, and 15,000 students the third year.
South Carolina’s program allows for the establishment of Educational Scholarship Trust Funds. Funds deposited in these accounts can be used not only for expanded school choice, but may also be used for special needs therapies, such as physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Tutors and transportation may also be included for families caring for special needs students.
So, what happened in Georgia?
If the Georgia Legislative Session had passed Senate Bill 233, also known as the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, it would have put $6,500 per student back into parents’ pockets so they could fund the best educational approaches for their children. The funds would have been eligible for use as private school tuition and public school alternatives, such as homeschooling.
According to the Georgia Department of Education, families who qualified would have had students enrolled into the lower 25% of schools in Georgia. This amounted to roughly 400,000 students.
SB 233 was a strong bill, passing the Senate with unanimous Republican support and going on to the House. Despite receiving no support from Senate Democrats, it’s excellent news that the bill made it so far through legislative proceedings.
The House vote proved to be tougher, with bipartisan representatives voting against it. Rep. Mesha Mainor of Atlanta was the lone Democrat in the House to vote in favor. On its final day of session, SB 233 was only six votes short of the 91 it needed to pass.
The good news is that the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act is eligible for reconsideration during the 2024 legislative session.
Looking to what’s next
Public schools are not the problem. We love and support public schools—they will remain the right and best choice for the vast majority of Georgia families. But we can love, support, and move public schools forward while expanding education into new areas.
Public education is a foundational and vital part of the success of American society, but an increasing number of families are looking toward alternatives—and their choices are just as valid. We must work to deliver quality education to all students, which means finding ways to support families who take a different schooling path. While many will access their education through public schools, not all kids are a perfect fit for that system, and they cannot be left behind.