Georgia Passes Promise Scholarships and Expands Education Opportunity

Georgia Passes Promise Scholarships and Expands Education Opportunity

Georgia's new education choice program, the Georgia Promise Scholarship, expands education opportunities for kids in low-performing public schools

Georgia Passes Promise Scholarships and Expands Education Opportunity

Key Points

  • Georgia lawmakers and Gov. Kemp have officially passed Senate Bill 233, which creates a new education option called the Georgia Promise Scholarship program. 
  • Promise Scholarships will help students in low-performing public schools. Eligible students can receive $6,500 scholarships to access different education options that match their needs.
  • The program is a positive first step toward an education system that works for every Georgia kid. To make an even bigger difference, lawmakers should work toward opening up the program to all Georgia students.

On April 23, 2024, Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, into law. This education savings account program—the first of its kind in Georgia—will give parents access to $6,500 state-funded scholarships that they can use to afford the education option best suited to their child’s needs. 

The Promise Scholarship Program empowers parents to give their kids quality education and brighter futures 

Promise Scholarships will be state-administered, state-funded accounts that give parents $6,500 per year and per student to use for approved education expenses. The program will be available beginning in the 2025-2026 school year. 

Parents can use these scholarships for a variety of education costs, including: 

  • Tuition and fees for private schools, online classes, college courses, and vocational programs
  • Tutoring services
  • Curriculum and textbooks
  • Educational therapies
  • Technology, including adaptive or assistive technologies for students with special needs
  • Transportation costs

Because of this flexibility, Promise Scholarships allow parents to consider a wide range of options—from homeschooling to private schools to other unique combinations of education services. 

“The best gift we can give our next generation is a quality education that opens the doors for new opportunities.” — Randy Hicks, GCO President & CEO

“The best gift we can give our next generation is a quality education that opens the doors for new opportunities.” — Randy Hicks, GCO President & CEO

Promise Scholarship eligibility focuses on low- and middle-income students 

SB 233 limits Promise Scholarship access to students enrolled in the bottom 25% of Georgia’s public schools, as ranked by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. 

First priority will also be given to students from families below 400% of the federal poverty level—around $120,000 a year for a family of four. Students above that threshold will be allowed to participate if funds are left over after the lower-income students are served.

These parameters—plus the funding cap that SB 233 puts on the program—means that Promise Scholarships will serve an estimated 21,000-22,000 kids out of half a million that are stuck in low-performing public schools. 

See all the student eligibility requirements here. 

The Georgia Promise Scholarship is an important step for updating our education system

SB 233 is a good step toward giving Georgia families access to high-quality, diverse education options. With more education options, students will have even better opportunities to get an education that’s tailored to their needs and sets them up for success in today’s fast-changing world. But if Georgia is serious about investing in our communities, we must keep working to close the education opportunity gap for all of Georgia’s kids. 

By passing SB 233, Georgia is catching up to neighboring states like Alabama, Florida, North Carolina that have already adopted education savings account programs. 

While Georgia is starting out with narrow student eligibility, these other states are opting for universal ESA programs, opening access to all students. Georgia will need to be open to this model if we want to give our own students the best possible academic outcomes and opportunities for a flourishing life. 

Thank you to Gov. Kemp and the lawmakers who recognized the urgency of the moment and passed Promise Scholarships to strengthen the key building block of education for thousands of kids across the state. It’s a momentous step toward a system where every child has access to quality education and a good life, regardless of income, race, zip code, or other life circumstances. 

Learn more about the Georgia Promise Scholarship

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233): Questions and Answers (Georgia Center for Opportunity)

What is the Georgia Promise Scholarship? (Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

The Georgia Promise Scholarship (SB 233): What Private Schools Need to Know (Georgia Center for Opportunity)

Georgia Students Need More Schooling Choices (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Governor’s Signature on School Choice Bill Is Good First Step (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia Governor Signs Bill to Launch ‘Promise Scholarships’ (Washington Examiner)

Safer Kentucky Act: Six Crime Reforms Included and How They Help

Safer Kentucky Act: Six Crime Reforms Included and How They Help

The Safer Kentucky Act focuses on lowering crime and fear in Louisville, as well as other vulnerable neighborhoods across Kentucky.

Safer Kentucky Act: Six Crime Reforms Included and How They Help

Key Points

  • The Safer Kentucky Act (House Bill 5) is a package of crime-related bills passed by the Kentucky Legislature in 2024. The legislation includes six GCO-recommended solutions for restoring community safety. 
  • The bill lowers crime by addressing gang-related violence, updating carjacking laws, facilitating successful reentry programs, and more. 
  • The Safer Kentucky Act is good news for impoverished communities and at-risk populations, which tend to bear the brunt of increasing violence. These public safety reforms will give communities hope and solutions to break cycles of violence and poverty and have better opportunities close to home.

Kentucky is home to one of the most challenging public safety environments in the country. Even so, the state has made positive changes, thanks to crime reduction policies that have increased police funding and established much-needed programs. Louisville, for example, finished 2023 with a 4% reduction in fatal shootings and an 8% reduction in nonfatal shootings. These were the lowest totals in both categories in four years. 

But more needs to be done to ensure residents are free to move about their neighborhoods without fear of personal harm. The urgency has increased, given that homicides in Louisville exploded again in March 2024.

A new law, passed by the Kentucky Legislature in 2024, offers hope for lowering violence and fear in Louisville and across the state. The Safer Kentucky Act (House Bill 5) includes six policy reforms, drawing from GCO’s public safety research, that will restore safety and better opportunities to Kentucky communities. 

What is the Safer Kentucky Act? 

The Safer Kentucky Act is an omnibus crime bill, which is a type of legislation that combines several proposed policy reforms into a single bill. In the case of the Safer Kentucky Act, all the individual provisions touch on some aspect of public safety. 

Proposed reforms cover everything from homelessness to repeat violent offenders. Among these reforms are a handful of changes directly focused on reducing crime and relieving communities of the fear and loss associated with increasing violence.

Higher violent crime rates rob communities of precious lives and lower the quality of life in the most vulnerable neighborhoods. 

Higher violent crime rates rob communities of precious lives and lower the quality of life in the most vulnerable neighborhoods. 

Six Ways the Safer Kentucky Act Addresses Crime

Establishes strategies to lower gang-related violence

Group Violence Intervention (GVI), also known as focused deterrence, is a gang violence reduction strategy, and when implemented properly, it can have substantial impact. 

  • GVI uses an approach known as “call-ins.” Call-ins bring in groups of active gang members to deliver simultaneous messages of enforcement, resources for gang members to better their lives, and community moral voices expressing the unacceptability of the violence.
  • Louisville, KY, has operated a GVI program for a few years, but an interpretation of state law prevents probationers and parolees in gangs from being compelled to attend call-ins. Despite GVI strategies existing across the country, Kentucky is the only state with this participation issue. House Bill 5 clarifies state law to allow this kind of program participation.

Updates state law to discourage carjackings

Kentucky has no state law specifically addressing carjacking. When someone commits a carjacking in Kentucky, they face one of two consequences. They may be transferred to federal court and charged with the federal crime of carjacking. Or they could be charged in state court with a combination of assault and robbery. 

  • The absence of a state carjacking law leads to insufficient punishment for too many carjackers. It also makes tracking and data collection around carjacking more difficult. 
  • The data that is available suggests carjackings have risen significantly since 2020.
  • Passing the Safer Kentucky Act would, for the first time, create a state-level carjacking statute that enables communities to appropriately deal with and discourage carjackings.

Improves parent and guardian involvement in juvenile proceedings 

Building on the parental accountability measures in House Bill 3 (passed in 2023), the Safer Kentucky Act contains a provision that would require one parent or guardian to attend proceedings involving their children or child in their custody. 

By requiring parents to at least be present at their children’s hearings, the idea is that they may be more involved and invested in the child’s success. While there are few good answers in this area, these parent-focused participatory measures can help make a difference on the margins.

Adds life in prison for repeat violent offenders

KRS 532 is Kentucky’s most narrow violent offender statute. It includes what most people would consider the worst of the worst offenses—murder, manslaughter, serious assaults, rapes, robbery, burglary, and so on. 

The Safer Kentucky Act establishes a new “three strikes law” for violations of KRS 532. Conviction of a third offense would result in life imprisonment. 

This measure would ensure that the most violent repeat offenders are appropriately punished. Several studies have found that these types of laws reduce crime, so this change will likely help Kentucky lower crime in the future.

Brings witness intimidation laws into the 21st century 

House Bill 5 would amend Kentucky’s current statute related to intimidating a participant in the legal process. It expands the statute to include harassing communications (as defined in KRS 525.080), making it easier to prosecute and punish anyone who uses electronic mediums like social media to attempt to intimidate and dissuade witnesses in criminal cases.

Makes sure re-entry works

Our criminal justice system has several purposes, but one of the most important is helping convicts rejoin civil society once they’ve completed their sentences. 

Kentucky operates several re-entry programs based on best practices around the country. But do these programs actually reduce re-arrest, re-convictions, and re-incarceration? Right now, we don’t know. 

The Safer Kentucky Act would require regular evaluations of re-entry programs—a practice that would ensure effective programs get the support they deserve. It would also reallocate funding away from programs that aren’t reducing recidivism and put it toward new, innovative approaches.

Who would the Safer Kentucky Act help? 

Low-Income Families and Communities

The effects of crime disproportionately concentrate in our poorest and most vulnerable communities, keeping them locked in cycles of violence, poverty, and despair. The Safer Kentucky Act is a key step to restoring community safety. When public safety thrives, neighborhoods become homes for the education options, work opportunities, and healthy relationships that lift people out of poverty. 

At-Risk Youth and Juvenile Offenders

We know that parental involvement makes a difference in how children’s lives turn out. The Safer Kentucky Act gives juvenile offenders the opportunity to benefit from their parents’ presence as they navigate the criminal justice system and paths for rehabilitation. 

Former Inmates 

Former prisoners who are re-entering society have the best chance for a fresh start when states invest in reentry programs that have a track record of success. The Safer Kentucky Act will improve the support that ex-offenders receive through the criminal justice system. Ultimately, this empowers them to build stable, meaningful, and independent lives after serving their sentences. 

Law Enforcement 

The Safer Kentucky Act would give local law enforcement better methods to deal with small populations who tend to be responsible for the majority of crime. The bill also improves the justice system’s ability to help non-violent offenders and ex-offenders get back on a healthy, stable path. 

Promise Scholarships Cross Major Hurdle

Promise Scholarships Cross Major Hurdle

Promise Scholarships would give Georgia students stuck in failing schools the opportunity to access schooling options better suited to their needs.

Promise Scholarships Cross Major Hurdle

Key Points

  • On March 14, 2024, the Georgia House voted 91-82 to pass Promise Scholarships (Senate Bill 233: The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act). The bill was confirmed in the Senate and signed into law on April 23, 2024. 
  • SB 233 will create a much-needed education option for students zoned for a school ranked in the bottom 25% of public schools. 
  • The Georgia House added parameters to the bill that reduce accessibility and set the bill to expire after 10 years. These issues will need to be addressed moving forward so that every child can have better opportunities to access quality education in Georgia.

On March 14, 2024, the Georgia House voted 91-82 to pass Promise Scholarships (Senate Bill 233: The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act). This bill is an important first step in extending an education lifeline to low- and middle-income kids in under-performing schools. While there is still much more to do as we press toward universal school access, we are thankful to the many House lawmakers who put the needs of kids above politics to advance this measure.

What’s in the Promise Scholarship Bill?

With these Promise Scholarships, students in the lowest performing 25% of public schools will be eligible to have $6,500 a year set aside in an account. These are the funds the state would have spent for their public school education. Under this bill, parents can direct the funds to cover approved educational expenses, including private school tuition, books, uniforms, and even transportation.

SB 233 also gives first priority to students from families below 400% of the federal poverty level—around $120,000 a year for a family of four. Students above that threshold will be allowed to participate if funds are left over after lower-income students are served.

To give public schools time to plan and adjust, public school districts will still receive state funding for a period of two years to cover any students leaving to participate in the program. 

“Our job is not decide for every family but to support them in making the best choice for their child.” — Gov. Brian Kemp, 2024 State of the State Address

“Our job is not decide for every family but to support them in making the best choice for their child.”
— Gov. Brian Kemp, 2024 State of the State Address

Limits to Promise Scholarships

While we are thankful that the bill moved forward in the 2024 legislative session, the version of SB 233 passed by the House is watered down in significant ways:

It restricts eligibility and access: The bill caps the amount of revenue available to fund Promise Scholarships to not exceed 1% of public school funding. Even if parent demand maxes out the program, this amount only covers an estimated 21,000-22,000 kids. That’s 0.012% of Georgia’s public school student population, and only a fraction of the 500,000+ kids that are stuck in the bottom 25% of public schools.

It applies expiration dates: Unless a future legislative body evaluates the program and chooses to extend it, the Georgia Promise Scholarship program will expire in 10 years. In that decade, lawmakers will still have to vote annually to fund the program. These measures add a layer of uncertainty that makes it difficult to secure a future of success and opportunity for our kids.

A view of the Georgia State Capitol Building, a symbol of political and historical significance in Atlanta, Georgia

Curious how your representative voted on SB 233?
Georgia’s General Assembly puts the voting records online. Go to the legislature’s website to see the breakdown of support among state representatives. 

Student success is at the heart of Promise Scholarships

The passage of SB 233 can’t come soon enough. Georgia is now surrounded by states that are aggressively and urgently addressing the needs of the future generations by adopting education savings accounts, or ESAs, that are open to all students. Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina have recently enacted universal programs, while South Carolina is in the process of creating a universal program in the coming years.

ESAs, particularly universal ones, are good policy because kids need quicker solutions for accessing education options that will work best for them. We can’t wait on reforms that will take years or even decades to take hold. As we’ve seen before, increased funding is no guarantee that poor performing public schools will improve, much less improve quickly.

Every semester, our K-12 students have academic milestones they are supposed to hit. And we know that when they don’t achieve these goals, they are more likely to fall further and further behind their peers, putting themselves and their futures at risk. 

SB 233 provides immediate help by making Promise Scholarships available beginning with the school year in 2025.

Education is a building block of a flourishing life. Without access to quality education in Georgia, our kids and our communities will continue down a path where success and opportunity are not open to everyone in the state. An increasing number of families are looking for alternatives, and we must work to provide opportunities that meets the needs of all students, not just a few.

Why Georgia Policies Matter

Why Georgia Policies Matter

podcast microphone on a desk

Why Georgia Policies Matter

Buzz Brockway joins us to discuss the policy landscape in Georgia. Georgia is a battleground state and the policies it enacts can have a huge impact on those living in poverty. We discuss why policy matters in Georgia and what we can expect in 2024.

Subscribe to the audio podcast on these platforms:

…more to come soon

You can also watch the video of the full podcast on YouTube.

You can also watch the video of the full podcast on YouTube.

A Better Safety Net in Georgia: Mapping the One Door Policy (House Bill 738) Would Be a Big Step Forward

A Better Safety Net in Georgia: Mapping the One Door Policy (House Bill 738) Would Be a Big Step Forward

The One Door policy connects welfare programs and work support to help people overcome poverty faster.

A Better Safety Net in Georgia: Mapping the One Door Policy (House Bill 738) Would Be a Big Step Forward

Key Points

  • Legislation pending in the Georgia Legislature, House Bill 738, would create a task force to explore how Georgia could use Utah’s One Door policy to allow more people to find meaningful work and pathways out of poverty through our safety-net system.
  • Georgia’s economy remains strong, but many individuals who could be employed are still missing from the labor force or are discouraged from working. Barriers in the safety-net system are a big reason this is happening. 
  • Creating a One Door policy task force would be an important first step in reimagining a safety net in Georgia that empowers upward mobility and better opportunities for millions of Georgians. 

Georgia’s labor force continues to show its historic resilience, as there are tens of thousands of jobs available across the Peach State. As of December 2023, there were 313,000 job openings, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

Even so, there are problems. Although the state boasts a robust unemployment rate of 3.4%, our state’s labor force participation rate stands at 61.5% as of December 2022, compared to 62.2% prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. These percentages mean a considerable number of Georgians who could work are not doing so.

Part of the reason is due to design flaws in our nation’s social safety-net system. The complexity and requirements of programs like food stamps, housing assistance, and medical benefits turn these programs into poverty traps instead of bridges to work and independence.  

There is a policy states can use to give people an easier path out of the safety net and into work. It’s called the One Door policy, and the solution is in the name: This reform transforms how the safety net delivers support by streamlining multiple disconnected programs into a single welfare and workforce program.

The One Door policy solves the overwhelming barriers of the safety-net system

The truth of the matter is that our nation’s welfare system is a fragmented hodgepodge of programs. The dozens of programs that make up the system have different and, at times, competing goals, inconsistent rules, and overlapping groups of recipients. Often, recipients must resubmit the same information multiple times for multiple programs with the aid of multiple caseworkers. This disconnect fosters despair and keeps recipients in a cycle of poverty—as every hour spent navigating the system is an hour not spent pursuing a path out of it. 

At the same time, there is often a disconnect between safety-net programs and welfare-to-work initiatives. The end result is that people stay mired in generational poverty rather than receiving a helping hand to live a better life.

How many people are affected in Georgia? For the 2022 calendar year, more than 1.6 million Georgians were enrolled in the food stamps program, while more than 2.4 million were on the Medicaid/CHIP program—two of the largest safety-net programs. That compares to a statewide population of 10.9 million people. 

These groups of millions are made up of real individual people who have their own futures and potential. When a safety-net system discourages work and family stability—two of the most important building blocks of a better future—people lose hope. As individual states and as a country, we can better address the suffering of poverty, unemployment, and fragmented families and relationships by creating a simpler, more humane system that rewards work and supports family and community stability. 

For individuals on welfare, every hour spent navigating the system is an hour they can’t pursue a path out. The One Door policy would change that. 

For individuals on welfare, every hour spent navigating the system is an hour they can’t pursue a path out. The One Door policy would change that. 

Proposed legislation (House Bill 738) takes the first step to bring the One Door policy to Georgia

In this environment, the Georgia Center for Opportunity team is on the vanguard of educating about safety-net reform. A key way we are doing so in Georgia is by pushing forward this legislation to create a One Door task force in the state, House Bill 738—Task Force on Workforce and Safety Net Integration.

The task force would create a plan to integrate the safety net with workforce development, in line with the successful One Door approach in Utah. Other states, including West Virginia and Louisiana, are weighing similar proposals. So why not here in Georgia?

People across the political spectrum agree that work is key to lifting people out of poverty. Toward this end, the goal of the task force authorized by the bill is to “study the intersection of workforce development programs and safety net programs.” The Task Force on Workforce and Safety Net Integration, housed within the Technical College System of Georgia, would be composed of nine members appointed from various corners of the government.

Georgia has already taken important steps forward to improve our safety-net and workforce development systems. The Georgia Gateway is a unified enrollment system for food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Childcare and Parent Services program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, but is limited to only those programs. Georgia has also taken steps to consolidate workforce programs under the Technical College System of Georgia.

But to remain a great place to live, work, and raise a family, Georgia must make sure all its citizens are participating in the economic growth we are experiencing. That’s why we need HB 738. 

How would Georgia’s One Door policy task force work?

The duties of the task force would include:

  • Developing best practices for the state agencies and departments involved with administering workforce and safety-net programs.
  • Exploring ways to merge state agencies or departments to better serve Georgia citizens.
  • Exploring how to best integrate the delivery of Georgia’s various workforce development programs and safety-net programs.
  • Creating implementation strategy for an integrated delivery system, including a customer-driven platform, simplified program governance and operations, and safeguards to ensure program integrity.

A final report is due to the governor and the General Assembly no later than December 31, 2025.

What problems does the task force solve?

By forming a task force, Georgia can explore further consolidating service delivery via Georgia Gateway and the Technical College System of Georgia—and how those entities and others can better coordinate service delivery. 

The task force will also prepare Georgia in the event that Congress reauthorizes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which could include the process allowing individual states to pursue a Utah-style One Door consolidation of welfare and work support services. 

The great news is that Georgia doesn’t have to wait on Congress to act. Through the task force and other means, the state can explore additional means of consolidation, up to and including consolidating entire departments. Georgia can also provide job training to more of its citizens, fueling additional economic growth.

The exciting part is the end result of these changes—more Georgians who will have the opportunity to escape systemic poverty, achieve self-sufficiency, and climb the economic ladder to create a better, more prosperous future for themselves and their children.

SB 233: Georgia Promise Scholarships Would Help Thousands of Students. Why Did Some Districts Vote Against It?

SB 233: Georgia Promise Scholarships Would Help Thousands of Students. Why Did Some Districts Vote Against It?

Promise Scholarships would give Georgia students stuck in failing schools the opportunity to access schooling options better suited to their needs.

SB 233: Georgia Promise Scholarships Would Help Thousands of Students. Why Did Some Districts Vote Against It?

Key Points

  • On March 29, 2023, Georgia Promise Scholarships (Senate Bill 233) failed by only a few votes in the House of Representatives. These leaders had another chance to vote on the bill in 2024.  
  • SB 233 creates a much-needed education option for students zoned for a school ranked in the bottom 25% of Georgia publis schools. Of the 16 Republicans who voted against Promise Scholarships in 2023, 13 have schools in the bottom 25%. 
  • More research is showing that more education choice helps public schools and translates to better academic achievement, especially for low-income students.

On March 29, 2023, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (Senate Bill 233) failed by a vote of 85-89 in the House of Representatives, despite passing the Georgia Senate on March 6, 2023. 

At the time, that was the furthest that an education savings account bill had advanced in the Georgia Legislature. Despite having support from Governor Brian Kemp, Lt. Governor Burt Jones, and Speaker Jon Burns, the bill still came up six votes short of passage in the House.

Georgia needs Promise Scholarships to build its future workforce and prosperity

In late 2023, Governor Brian Kemp announced a new program called Georgia Match. Georgia Match seeks to connect every high school senior with a post-secondary education path that meets each student’s needs. The program brings unprecedented cooperation between the Georgia Department of Education, The Technical College System of Georgia, and the University System of Georgia. It’s not an exaggeration to say this program can potentially transform Georgia’s educational system and workforce.

SB 233 would allow students zoned for a school ranked in the bottom 25% for two consecutive years, according to Georgia’s College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI), to use a Promise Scholarship. 

  • Promise Scholarships would allow these families to access education options that they might not otherwise be able to afford or use. The scholarship could be applied to private school tuition, homeschooling materials, or other educational expenses defined in the bill.

  • The state would put the scholarship amount ($6,500) in a parent-directed account controlled by the state of Georgia for these purposes.

Based on CCRPI scores, which were last calculated in 2018-2019, 298 schools currently fall into the bottom 25% criteria. These schools are located all across Georgia, but mostly in areas of high poverty.

It’s important to note that limiting the Promise Scholarship to only the bottom 25% of schools doesn’t cover all the schools in Georgia that receive D or F grades in CCRPI.

To see Georgia Match fulfill its potential, K-12 students must be prepared to succeed in the post-secondary education path they choose—especially those students eligible for a Promise Scholarship and those who deserve better economic and social opportunities to escape poverty. 

“Our job is not decide for every family but to support them in making the best choice for their child.” — Gov. Brian Kemp, 2024 State of the State Address

“Our job is not decide for every family but to support them in making the best choice for their child.”
— Gov. Brian Kemp, 2024 State of the State Address

16 Republican legislators opposed Promise Scholarships in 2023. Here’s why they should have changed their vote.

Over the past 10 years, Republican governors and legislators have passed and tried to implement reforms meant to improve Georgia’s lowest-performing public schools. From the failed Opportunity School District constitutional amendment to the all-but-gutted Chief Turnaround Officer legislation, efforts for transformational reform within the traditional public school system have been stifled.

Many of the schools in question also receive intensive assistance from the Department of Education (DOE) via the Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) programs. These programs require schools to develop improvement plans in close collaboration with DOE officials. 

While these programs have helped, there’s an important detail that voters and parents should know about. Several of these schools in the bottom 25% of CCRPI performance today were schools that qualified for the Opportunity School District program back in 2015. 

In other words, these schools are still among our state’s lowest-performing schools after eight years of intensive assistance. Should we continue to tell parents to wait for another program? If your children or grandchildren were zoned for these schools, would you tell them to wait?

For several legislators, including 16 Republican Representatives, the answer has been “yes.”

Of the 16 Republican legislators who voted against SB 233 2023, 13 have schools in the bottom 25%. Yet all 16 of these districts have private schools ready to accept more students. In addition, Georgia has a robust homeschooling community in all corners of the state, as well as a burgeoning microschool movement. Promise Scholarship recipients can access these options no matter where they live.

Get the answers to common questions about the new Georgia Promise Scholarship program.

Georgia’s Promise Scholarship Explained
Find out what the program is, how it works, and which students will be eligible. 

To meet Georgia’s diverse student needs, the answer is to expand parental options.

If we truly want Governor Kemp’s Georgia Match program to succeed, parents need more options. If we truly want all of Georgia’s students to obtain a quality education and pursue post-secondary education that prepares them for a meaningful career and a stable life, parents need more options. If we want Georgia’s economy to continue to thrive and attract new industries to our state, parents need more options.

Expanding parental options will lift our entire educational system. To see this in action, all we need to do is look south. A November 2023 study of Florida’s educational landscape found that as school choice programs matured, the positive effects were felt across the board, including within the public schools:

“We find that as public schools are more exposed to private school choice, their students experience increasing benefits as the program matures. In particular, higher levels of private school choice exposure are associated with lower rates of suspensions and absences, and with higher standardized test scores in reading and math.”

The students showing the most gains? Students with low–socioeconomic status (SES). 

Far from harming public schools, school choice actually improves public schools. Georgia’s students deserve to have this opportunity as well.

With SB 233, Georgia legislators had an incredible chance to set Georgia students on a path toward academic success and a bright future. Thankfully, SB 233 and Georgia’s kids received the support needed from lawmakers, and the Georgia Promise Scholarship passed in April 2024. The progam will become available for Georgia parents and students in Fall 2025.