Education, Politics

School Voucher Bill Gets New Life In Georgia Senate

Georgia Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, rewrote a bill that would have let families use some state money for private services, including private school tuition and tutors. The new legislation, which is attached to another bill, tightens up some regulations, including qualification requirements and clarifying which institutions can receive state funds.
Georgia Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, rewrote a bill that would have let families use some state money for private services, including private school tuition and tutors. The new legislation, which is attached to another bill, tightens up some regulations, including qualification requirements and clarifying which institutions can receive state funds.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press file
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A bill that would essentially create a school voucher program in Georgia has received new life in the Legislature.

The original legislation, Senate Bill 173, would have let families use some state money for private services, including private school tuition and tutors. That bill was hotly debated — and narrowly defeated — in the state Senate. The legislation didn’t make it out of the Senate before Crossover Day, the deadline for bills to pass one chamber to stay alive for the session.

Since then, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, rewrote the original bill. Because SB 173 didn’t pass the Senate, the new bill is attached to House Bill 68, which puts limitations on a tax credit scholarship program. Dolezal told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday the new version has some significant changes. The original bill had been engrossed before the Senate vote, meaning it couldn’t be amended.

“There were some last-minute requests that came in, and my hands were tied in my ability to address those,” Dolezal said. “Since that time, there’s been a number of other conversations we’ve had with both folks in the body and folks outside the body, folks in constitutional offices here in the state, and that has produced the product that you see before you today.”

The new version tightens up some regulations, including qualification requirements and clarifying which institutions can receive state funds. Committee members also approved several amendments to the bill.

Still, some advocates had concerns.

Angela Palm, the director of policy and legislative services for the Georgia School Boards Association, said the bill needs more guardrails.

“Any voucher program should include accountability measures, including financial and policy transparency, performance evaluation measures and consequences for poor performance,” Palm said.

The committee approved the bill in a 5-4 vote. The bill moves on to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide whether it heads to the Senate floor.

Clarification: The story has been updated to explain House Bill 68.