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

Promise Scholarships (Georgia’s Education Savings Accounts) cross a 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 will return to the Georgia Senate for a review and vote on the changes to the bill.
  • SB 233 would create a much-needed education option for students zoned for a school ranked in the bottom 25%.
  • The Georgia House added restrictions to the bill which will greatly reduce the accessibility and will sunset the bill after 10 years. These are issues which will need to be addressed moving forward to ensure that every child has access to quality education in Georgia.

We have great news to share: Educational opportunity is on the move 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 the over half-a-million low- and middle-income kids stuck in failing public 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. But 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 the lower-income students are served.

What’s more, public school districts will still receive state funding for any students leaving to participate in the program for a period of two years, giving them time to plan and adjust.

Bringing Promise Scholarships to Georgia Families: What Happened?

In 2023, Georgia education savings accounts cleared the state Senate but fell just a few votes short in the House. However, the bill stayed eligible for consideration in the 2024 legislative session.

Gov. Brian Kemp has voiced strong support for the bill in recent days, leading to the decision in the House to move the bill along.

SB 233 now heads to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

“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 to see the bill moving this session, the version of SB 233 passed by the House today is watered down in significant ways:

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 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.

Applies an expiration date: Unless a future legislative body evaluates the program and chooses to extend it, the Promise Scholarships will end 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 and select the vote for March 14, 2024, 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 at the heart of opportunity. Without access to quality schools 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 deliver a quality education that meets the needs of all students, not just a few.

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