House bill

Bill Analysis: House Bill 999 (LC 49 0739)

  • House Bill 999 relies on flawed measure to calculate state allocations to public schools
  • Georgia cannot afford to ignore needs inside public schools in favor of exclusive private schools
  • State lawmakers concerned about Georgia children should reject HB 999 and consider legislation like HB 10 that provided additional funding to students who need it most

The Georgia House Education Subcommittee on Academic Innovation recently voted to pass a bill that would channel public state funds to private schools. House Bill 999 would create an Education Savings Account (ESA), another name for a voucher allowing families to pay for private school tuition or qualified education expenses with state government funds . The bill would set aside $6,000 per school year in a “consumer account,” and a family’s acceptance would act as a denial of federal protections for students with disabilities and state laws for a public education. adequate, such as background checks on teachers.[1]

The private schools that receive these funds would not have to be fully accredited and the teachers in these schools would not have to hold a baccalaureate, essential safeguards that have been put in place to ensure a level of quality in the ‘education. Guardians of participating children can also use ESA for other qualified education expenses like private transportation or tutoring services. The disputed expenses would be reviewed by a panel of parents whose children currently receive this ESA instead of a neutral party, raising conflict of interest concerns. The entire program would be managed by the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

HB 999 is subject to appropriation, which means the cost would be determined annually by the General Assembly. The bill contains language for deciding how to fund ESAs in the event that there are more applicants than can be funded at the amount of $6,000 per year. HB 999 allows the Georgia Student Finance Commission to use three percent of the funds to administer the program. The table below shows potential costs based on the number of students the state legislature would like to attend the program and assuming similar demand.

In fiscal year 2022, the state sent $9.9 billion to local districts and charter schools to educate 1.7 million full-time equivalent students at a per-student cost of $5,751. This amount is an average heavily weighted by students who order more expensive programs due to stated need, such as students with disabilities or English language learners. While the average expenditure per student was $5,751, students in general education 9and-12and the classes only received $4,159, a difference of $1,592 per child and $1,800 less than the amount shown on the voucher.[2] This difference in allocations appears to prioritize private education spending over schools and students (such as those in general secondary education courses) that the state is constitutionally required to support.

Georgia has made budget cuts to public schools in 18 of the past 20 years, totaling $10 billion in underfunding.[3] Although the governor’s budget would restore the current year’s cut, the state’s record has left a heavy legacy for children through larger class sizes, an aging school bus fleet and other consequences. Public schools are operating during a pandemic that has also taken terrible toll. When children struggle with declining mental health, the state has been unable to fund even one counselor for every 450 students. For reference, the American School Counselors Association recommends a school counselor ratio of 1:250.[4]

When children struggle with declining mental health, the state has been unable to fund even one counselor for every 450 students.

The state also underfunded necessary subsidies for student transportation, teacher replacements, and rural education.[5] Georgia remains one of six states in the country that does not provide additional funding to educate students living in poverty.[6] With so many flaws in the way the state provides education, it is irresponsible to fund a separate, private education system. State legislators who are concerned about the quality of education should reject policies such as vouchers and instead invest in communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Legislation like House Bill 10, which provides additional funding for students living in poverty, would provide new opportunities for every school in Georgia instead of singling out only families who could use a voucher.[7]

[1] House Bill 999. LC 49 0739. https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61329

[2] Based on GBPI analysis from the Georgia Department of Education. Quality Basic Education Act Attribution Sheet. Results sheet for the 2022 financial year.

[3] Owens, S. (2022). State of education financing (2022). Georgian Institute of Budget and Policy. https://gbpi.org/state-of-education-funding-2022/

[4] American Association of School Counselors. Roles and ratios of school counsellors. https://www.schoolcounselor.org/About-School-Counseling/School-Counselor-Roles-Ratios

[5] Owens, S. (2022). State of education financing (2022). Georgian Institute of Budget and Policy. https://gbpi.org/state-of-education-funding-2022/

[6] Owens, S. (2022). Snapshot: FY 2023 budget for K-12 education. Georgian Institute of Budget and Policy. https://gbpi.org/overview-2023-fiscal-year-budget-for-k-12-education/

[7] House Bill 10. LC 49 0262. https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/58795