Session Wraps With Two Key Victories for School Choice

Session Wraps With Two Key Victories for School Choice

Expanded education options will soon be available to thousands of Georgia families, thanks to two measures approved in the closing hours of the General Assembly’s session last week. The last-minute approvals came at a time when school-choice advocates were losing hope that meaningful action would take place on parental school choice reforms this year. Both bills now await Governor Nathan Deal’s signature before becoming law.

The first measure, House Bill 217, nearly doubles the size of Georgia’s popular Tax Credit Scholarship Program beginning in 2019. Currently, the program is capped at $58 million per year, but the new bill raises that cap to $100 million. These tax-credit scholarships are available to help students from low-income, working-class, and minority families attend high-quality private schools that better meet their academic needs. More than 13,000 students in Georgia are benefiting from these scholarships right now.

Unfortunately, the bill also contains a “sunset provision” that pushes the cap back down to $58 million beginning in 2029. But lawmakers will have ample opportunity to eliminate that sunset over the next few years, particularly as demand for the Tax Credit Scholarship Program will undoubtedly continue to grow. Here at Georgia Center for Opportunity, we’ll advocate for eliminating this sunset to ensure the program remains well-funded perpetually.

The second measure, House Bill 787, authorizes more funding for charter schools, bringing them into greater parity with funding for traditional public schools. “This bill does not achieve full funding equity, but it is a significant step forward for Georgia students who are enrolled in a state charter school,” said Tony Roberts, President and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “This bill will help ensure that students and families who chose a public charter school because it best meets the needs of their children will not be financially penalized.”

Although acknowledging these significant strides for school choice during the legislative session, school-choice advocates were disappointed that lawmakers fell short of passing House Bill 482. If approved, the measure would have made Georgia the seventh state to pass Education Savings Accounts (ESA), an innovative way for parents to pay for non-public educational options for their children.

The Benefits of Education Tax Credits

Two students looking at a computer

Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute said, “We shouldn’t expect that any one school will meet the needs of all the children who just happen to live in a certain geographic area.”

Tuition Tax Credits, or Education Tax Credits, are a great way to help low-income families take control of their lives by having a choice in the education of their children.

This past legislative session, Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro) introduced legislation (HB 440 – Business and Education Succeeding Together Act) that will create a separate corporate-only tuition tax credit that will give more options to low-income families. Access to quality education is one major community factor that leads to opportunity. Georgia should continue to expand this opportunity so that more children have the opportunity to thrive.

Check out this video explaining Education Tax Credits and the national struggle to give children access to quality education through this program: