ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers have introduced a bill that would give parents a $6,000 subsidy to pay for private school tuition. However, critics claim it could cripple public schools.
With a few exceptions, everybody in Georgia spending money on retail, and everybody owning property pays taxes to fund public schools.
Under the new legislation, that wouldn’t change. However, it would make the parents of private school students eligible for a $6,000 annual voucher for private school tuitions.
"This would take the money that comes from the state for that child out, and they could spend that money on a different school system," said Republican Senate president pro tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville). His bill makes it easier for parents to opt-out of their public schools if that’s what they want.
"Public schools will improve," Miller said in an interview Friday. "There are public schools, and it’s been brought to our attention through the pandemic, that are not up to par and that could use improvement. And the bottom line is, parents need to have choices."
Miller says the bill would continue to fund public schools with local tax dollars. But the bill would reduce -- by $6000 per student using the voucher -- the amount of state money supporting public schools.
Critics of the bill say it would eliminate money to pay for basic infrastructure and resources.
"Funding our public schools is not where we can say, 'just because one student is gone it makes more funds for the other students,'" said Lisa Morgan, a former kindergarten teacher who leads the Georgia Association of Educators.
Morgan says Miller’s bill would undercut and underfund public schools.
"These (public voucher) programs end up being programs for parents who already intend to send their children to private school and have the means to do so," she said.
Miller’s bill is one of several Republican bills that designed to advance parental choice in schools – which critics say would undercut public education.
They have considerable traction this election year.