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

Key Points

  • Georgia Senators have passed a bill (Senate Bill 233) that would create Promise Scholarship Accounts. The bill is headed to the House for a vote.
  • Funded by the state in the amount of $6,000 per student for each school year, Promise Scholarships would allow parents to find the right education option for their kids. 
  • Eligibility is limited to kids in the bottom-performing quartile of public schools (F-graded schools and some D-graded schools), based on the Georgia Department of Education’s evaluation.

The Georgia Senate has passed Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, which would expand education options in Georgia by creating education savings accounts. Georgia has a widespread problem of underperforming public schools and a growing parent demand for more education choice and flexibility. Promise Scholarships are a much-needed solution for expanding quality education for Georgia kids. Here’s what parents and voters need to know about Promise Scholarships.

What is SB 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act? 

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233) is a type of education choice program for parents and families. It creates promise scholarships, which are state-administered, state-funded accounts that would give families $6,000 per year and per student to use for approved education expenses. Another common name for this type of program is “education savings accounts.”

How would Georgia Promise Scholarship Accounts work?

Promise Scholarship Accounts would give families $6,000 per year and per student to use for approved education expenses. The state would set aside these funds into an account the parent can direct toward the education option(s) that best supports their child’s unique learning needs.

How is the Promise Scholarship amount determined?

Georgia Promise Scholarship amounts are set at $6,000, which is approximately the average per-pupil amount that the state sends to local school districts, based on Georgia’s current student funding formula.

What could Georgia parents do with a Promise Scholarship Account?

Unlike Georgia’s other school choice programs, Promise Scholarship Accounts give parents the flexibility to buy multiple education products and services to personalize their child’s education. Parents can use accounts to pay one or more qualifying education expenses:

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

Who can apply for a Promise Scholarship? 

To apply and qualify, parents must be Georgia residents, and the student must be enrolled in a Georgia public school that the Georgia Department of Education ranks in the bottom quartile of school performance based on their annual assessment (schools receiving a “D” or “F” grade from the state). Children who are eligible for kindergarten or pre-kindergarten can also apply. Once eligible, a child remains eligible through the 12th grade. 

Parents must agree to use the accounts only for qualifying educational expenses, and they cannot enroll their child in a local school system school, charter school, or a state charter school while participating in the program.

Do you qualify?
Use our interactive map to see which schools are in the lowest 25% of Georgia’s public schools.

Do you qualify?
Use our interactive map to see which schools are in the lowest 25% of Georgia’s public schools.

Why does Georgia need the Promise Scholarship Act? 

Georgia has a widespread problem of underperforming or failing public schools. Based on our state’s own evaluation of public school performance, at least 500,000 kids are stuck in schools that receive a D or F grade from the Georgia Department of Education. 

Georgia, like many states, is experiencing a parent movement for more education choice and flexibility as frustration with a one-size-fits-all school system has grown since the pandemic. This program would give parents seeking alternatives more opportunity to customize their child’s education when the local public school is not the best fit. 

The program would also benefit parents who are satisfied with their local public school. States with robust education choice programs achieve better outcomes for all students, including those in the public school system. Education savings account programs, in particular, have a track record of empowering public schools to improve their budgets, as well as student achievement.

Are Georgia Promise Scholarships the same thing as school vouchers?

No, Promise Scholarships and vouchers are two different types of parental choice programs. This question is a common one because critics of education savings accounts often call them “private school scholarships” or “vouchers by another name.” However, both descriptions are inaccurate and misleading.

School vouchers allow parents to use public education dollars for private school tuition only. Education savings accounts can be used for a wider range of education expenses, and they allow parents more flexibility to pay for multiple education services and products if desired.

Are Georgia Promise Scholarships the same thing as 529 plans?

No. With a 529 plan, the parents are responsible for contributing money to the account in order to save for their child’s education expenses. Promise Scholarships would be state-funded and would not require parents to contribute any of their own money. Parents can choose to use a Promise Scholarship Account for education savings, such as saving for college tuition, but the account doesn’t have the same tax benefits that 529 plans do.


The program is a major step toward expanding access to quality education for every kid in Georgia.

The program is a major step toward expanding access to quality education for every kid in Georgia.


Do other states have education savings accounts? 

Yes, ten states have adopted some form of an education savings account program: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. As of March 2023, Arkansas became the eleventh state to adopt ESAs. 

In addition to Georgia, these other states are considering education savings account programs in 2023:

  • Idaho: Idaho’s Senate Education Committee passed a bill that would create an education savings account program for Idaho families. The bill is now headed to the Senate floor for debate and a potential vote.
  • Oklahoma: Governor Kevin Stitt recently endorsed education savings accounts to give Oklahoma parents at least $5,000 per child for schooling options. Two pieces of related legislation have been filed in the state senate. 
  • South Carolina: The South Carolina Senate passed a proposal to create education savings accounts that would give up to 15,000 students $6,000 for tuition, transportation, textbooks, and internet access. The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives.
  • Texas: Governor Greg Abbott has made school choice a priority for the 2023 legislative session, and he’s calling for the state to adopt education savings accounts to increase parental choice. 

Will SB 233 and Promise Scholarships take money away from Georgia’s public schools?

No. In fact, it’s possible for Georgia to fund both public schools and school choice programs at the same time. Promise Scholarships would give a portion of state per-pupil funding to parents. Remaining education dollars go back to public schools and can even lead to an increase in spending per-pupil public school spending. 

That has been the case in Arizona, which has one of the longest-running and most inclusive ESA programs. Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts award a total of $250 million ($7,000 per student), which amounts to 1.7% of the total $14.8 billion going to Arizona public schools in 2022-2023. Furthermore, for every ESA participant, approximately $600 is going back to Arizona’s public schools for teacher pay and other essential expenses.

Plus, while ESAs will be a good solution for certain families, many parents will continue to access education through their local public school. That means states will still need to prioritize sufficient funding for public schools. 

Will the Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233) help low-income families? 

Yes. One benefit of Education Savings Account programs is that they are one of the most equitable education choice methods out there. They give students from low-income families more opportunities to access schooling options that are often only available to families with greater financial resources.

Will the Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233) hurt homeschooling families? 

No. There are no provisions in the proposed law that would prevent homeschooling families from continuing this schooling option. Instead, SB 233 could make homeschooling an even more feasible option because families who qualify could use an account to pay for curriculum, courses, tutoring, or other educational resources that would enhance their homeschooling experience.

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