Voucher bills find their way to the legislature each year in part because of the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council—a most conservation organization that has as one of its primary goals the demise of public education and the exhortation of private education. I find it disturbing that the primary author of this year’s version is a former school teacher from Cherokee County, Wes Cantrell.
Exactly what is the voucher bill? Generally voucher bills are titled as a scholarship fund to which parents of students NOT in public school can direct the State to deposit in the scholarship fund the state funds that would go to a school system if the student was enrolled in public school. The parent can then use the funds in basically anyway they deem appropriate including home school, private school, tutoring (which includes travel for study purposes), and even post-secondary education. The advocates for the bill argue that it does not cost the local systems anything and that they come out ahead because they keep all the local funds that would have garnered if the student were enrolled. The money has to come from somewhere and when new money is limited it means some existing agency, likely education, loses. The argument about the local funds doesn’t make sense. The local school system has the money whether the student enrolls or not. It really has no relevance to the scholarship funding.
Perhaps the major question is why? Two reasons come to mind. First, the American Legislative Exchange Council has made it very clear that it will financially support any legislator that is successful in getting a voucher vote in their state legislature. Secondly, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Jay Powell of Camilla, has been most accommodating to voucher legislation in the past. When voucher legislation has been assigned to the House Education Committee the bills have failed to exit to the Rules Committee.
The bottom line is that voucher legislation undermines public education and routes public funds to private education.
I most certainly encourage you to contact your legislator, most particularly the members of the House, and let them know how you feel about enacting vouchers in Georgia. This is not a battle for public education that will go away and we will have to maintain resistance every year.