We’ve been tracking the progress of school choice legislation across the country, and it’s been a bang-up year for those who believe all kids should have access to a quality education—no matter their zip code or family’s income status.
But don’t let the rate of success fool you into thinking these victories come easily. Hardly. The opposition is well-funded and well-entrenched. Advocates of school choice argue on the merits of the ideas, but the people they’re championing these bills for the most are often too poor and overworked to get to state capitols and argue for themselves. Meanwhile, teachers’ unions and government bureaucrats have all the time in the world for such activities (because they’re working on your tax dollars’ time), and they can donate to the politicians who ultimately make the decisions.
In Georgia, it seems those voices have won out for the year. The state advanced a bill that would have ensured students in the state’s 25% worst school districts had access to education savings accounts. That would have meant their families could spend the tax dollars currently in use for their child’s education to go to a private school, homeschool, access online courses, or stay in their public school if that’s what they want to do.
But despite passing through the state’s Senate and despite the governor’s support, a number of House members prevented the bill from becoming law in 2023.
— AFPGeorgia (@AFPGeorgia) March 30, 2023
Americans for Prosperity of Georgia, which is working on the bill and where I am a consultant, released a statement after the House failed to advance the bill late Wednesday evening.
“Today’s vote makes it clear which representatives are on the side of students and families and which favor a top-down approach to education,” said Deputy State Director Tony West.
“This bill was a real opportunity to give Georgia parents the opportunity to choose the educational option that meets their children’s needs best. I am disappointed the House failed to pass such important legislation, that so many other states are rightly acting on,” he continued.
While this is a highly disappointing event, the legislation is not quite dead in the water. While the vote to pass the bill failed, another vote to reconsider the measure was successful—meaning the House could choose to return to the bill next year. So basically, they can pick up where they left off in 2024 without the bill going back through the entire process of getting to the floor.
That means there is still some hope. And it’s worth noting that many leaders in the state’s House have worked tirelessly to champion this cause including Representatives Joe Campbell, Leesa Hagan, Rick Townsend, John Corbett, Matthew Gambill, Victor Anderson, and Bethany Ballard.
No child should be trapped in a failing government school, but for at least another year, some of Georgia’s most vulnerable students will be. It’s a shame that apparently so many care more about keeping special interests happy than they do ensuring every child has the opportunity to get a good education and prosper.
Disclaimer: Hannah is a consultant for Americans for Prosperity, which works on these issues.