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Monday, February 27, 2023 - Day 24
Archive of Past Legislative Alerts 

ESP retirement bill in committee tomorrow

SB 206, a bill to require the identification of school districts in Georgia that do not contribute to Social Security for members of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), will be heard in the Senate Retirement Committee tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.  The hearing can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/showcase/9076493?autoplay=1PSERS is a system that is specifically for school custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and maintenance personnel.

Senate Ed Committee to take up controversial voucher bill tomorrow

No agenda has been posted but the Senate Education Committee is expected to vote on SB 233, vouchers, at its meeting tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in Room 450 of the State Capitol.  The meeting will be live-streamed at: https://vimeo.com/showcase/9027934?autoplay=1.

SB 233 is a massive voucher bill, which proposes to give $6,000-a-year to every student in Georgia to attend the private school of their choice.

The bill forces hard-working Georgians to pay the private school tuition and fees of more wealthy families from pre-K through high school graduation.

If just 10% of the 1.75 million school children in our state take advantage of the handout, the bill would cost a billion dollars each year in taxpayer subsidies mostly for the Atlanta-area's most exclusive private schools.

Unlike the state's existing "Special Needs" voucher program, which is limited to students with medical and learning disabilities, this scheme makes any student eligible without regard to family income.

There is little oversight on how taxpayer money is spent under the proposal.  A committee of participating parents will oversee expenditures of the program.  The bill requires a survey of participating parents to see how happy they are to be getting state-funded private school assistance.

The bill is an insulting afront to public education by taking the tax dollars of hard-working Georgians away from public education to pay for private schooling.

Given the financial needs of public schools, this money would be better spent on a myriad of funding needs such hiring more teachers, counselors, social workers, and school psychologists, and improving the pay and benefits of all educators.  Legislators could easily ensure high-speed internet throughout the state and in rural Georgia with what the bill would cost.

The General Assembly could fund the transportation costs increasingly born by local systems and provide additional funding for schools that have a high number of students living in poverty.  Many teachers in Georgia spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year just to pay for school supplies for their students.

Since 2003, Georgia has slashed $11 billion from public education.  This is money that schools will never again if SB 233 becomes law.

Vouchers bills like SB 233 are also associated with fraud.  This bill is modeled after an Arizona law.  The Arizona Department of Education identified more than $700,000 in illegal expenditures by parents whose children were participating in their voucher program.

In 2021, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts wrote of the current voucher program in Georgia: "
Additional steps are needed to improve transparency and accountability of the student scholarship program
."  Vouchers proponents have routinely resisted efforts to bring academic accountability and financial transparency to Georgia's existing voucher programs.

Vouchers bills like SB 233 offer false hope to many families.  The subsidy falls far short of the actual tuition costs of elite private schools in Georgia, some with the tuition and fees totaling more than $30,000-a-year.  The bill does nothing for rural areas in Georgia where there are no private schools.

Legislation just like SB 233 was rejected by the Georgia Senate last year, with 29 Senators voting against it.

We expect the Senate Education Committee to pass SB 233 and our chance to defeat this legislation will be on the floor of the Senate.  A call to action is forthcoming.  It is urgent that you respond quickly once you receive this communication.

New bill filed

HB 579 was filed late last week to eliminate the one-year requirement that a student be enrolled in a public school before qualifying for the Georgia Special Needs voucher.  The bill also requires the State Department of Education to expedite the development of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for students whose plan has expired or has not previously had one.
Last week for bills to be passed out of committee
This week is the last week to pass bills out of committees so that they can be eligible to pass the chamber in which they were introduced by Crossover Day on Monday, March 6.

The following additional committee meetings have been posted:

The Curriculum Subcommittee of the House Education Committee meets at 3 p.m. tomorrow in Room 415 of the Coverdell Building.  The meeting can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/showcase/8988927?autoplay=1.  A bill on school accreditation, HB 506, will be heard as well as HB 538, the Georgia Early Literacy Act.

Wednesday: The Senate Education and Youth Committee meets for a third time this week, at 10 a.m., 307 Coverdell.  No agenda has been announced for that meeting.

Next Update will be Tuesday, February 28

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