Georgia Expands Opportunities for Students to Access Schools That Best Meet Their Needs

Georgia Expands Opportunities for Students to Access Schools That Best Meet Their Needs

Georgia lawmakers wrapped up the 2018 session by passing House Bill 217, a bill expanding the successful tax credit scholarship program that serves nearly 14,000 students throughout the state, while providing additional transparency and accountability for taxpayers.

The decade-old scholarship program has routinely had long waiting lists of families hoping to pursue educational options that were out of reach. The program is funded by donations from businesses and individuals who receive an equal amount as a state tax credit. HB 217 increases the cap on tax credits available under the program from $58 million to $100 million. By nearly doubling this amount, thousands of additional students can finally move from waiting lists to the school of their choice.

Georgia lawmakers also took important first steps forward, as part of a longer-term plan, to create more financial parity between all public schools with House Bill 787. This bill provides an estimated $18.6 million increase in funding for tens of thousands of students in public charter schools overseen by the State Charter Schools Commission, Georgia’s statewide charter authorizer.

HB 787 helps reduce the gap in funding between public charter schools and traditional public schools, with additional funds ideally following in future years. It boosts per-student funding, adds new capital funding, provides “forward funding” to cover the cost of significant growth and allows these schools to benefit from membership in Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs).

“Traditional schools serve most families very well, but education is not one-size-fits-all. Regardless of income or where they live, families deserve the power to find the best educational fit for their children’s unique needs. When students thrive, our entire state benefits.

“ExcelinEd in Action would like to thank the many leaders who have worked diligently to help Georgia’s families, including the sponsor of HB 217, Rep. John Carson; the sponsor of HB 787, Rep. Scott Hilton;  House Speaker David Ralston, House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, House Education Chair Brooks Coleman, House Ways & Means Chair Jay Powell,  Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Senate Finance Chair Chuck Hufstetler.

“We also thank our partners including GeorgiaCAN, the Georgia Center for Opportunity, the Georgia Chamber, the Georgia Charter Schools Association, the Georgia Independent Schools Association and many more.”

Ryan Mahoney, Southeast Legislative Director, ExcelinEd in Action

For more information about the power of educational opportunity, visit the ExcelinEd policy library.