Georgia legislation would provide school choice in the form of education savings accounts

A bill that would create education savings accounts that participating families could use for private school tuition, homeschooling or other educational expenses passed Georgia’s House Education committee Thursday.

House Bill 60 resembles legislation from previous sessions, most notably a school voucher bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Wes Cantrell. Cantrell and others have argued that such legislation would provide options to families whose children are not being served well at their district school.

“What this is about is helping the kids who are less fortunate,” Cantrell said last week. “They’re trapped in a cycle of poverty and an education strategy that’s not working for them for whatever reason, and it’s giving them a simple opportunity to have an option.”

Students from families making less than 200% of the federal poverty level – about $53,000 for a family of four – would be the first to receive eligibility, along with military families, students with disabilities and children in foster care. Next in line would be students in school districts that do not have an option for 100% in-person learning for at least a semester.

The bill proposes an eligibility cap of .25% of the state’s public school students for the first year, adding another quarter percent each year with a cap of 2.5%, or about 43,000 students based on current enrollment. A previous version of the bill allowed twice as many students.

Republican state Rep. Ed Setzler observed that school districts where students take advantage of an education savings account would see more money overall, and that while state money would go to the private school, the share of funding from local taxes would remain in the district.

“If students in your district use this program, this program actually lines the pockets of your district,” he said. “This program actually increases the per-pupil funding of the kids in your district who do not take this program.”

The bill needs approval by the full House to move forward.