In case you haven't heard - SB 173 - Education Savings Accounts (a.k.a. vouchers) was REVIVED today during the Senate Education Committee by AMENDING the language into HB 68!
Despite the efforts of Georgia PTA members' advocacy and other education advocates from around the state, the supporters of vouchers are doing everything they can to get it passed this session.
What does this mean?
This means there will be another vote on creating a large-scale voucher program in Georgia. If enough senators change their vote, HB 68 (the new voucher bill) has the possibility of passing.
What should we do?
Because the voucher language was attached to a bill which already has passed the House, this bill is ALIVE and MOVING! Therefore, next steps are to
Contact the Senate Rules Committee (see below) to ask them to NOT pass HB 68 out of the Rules Committee in its current form;
Keep contacting your senator's office. Get your family, friends, and coworkers to contact their senator.Find contact information here.
If they voted No, thank them for their vote and ask them to continue to vote No. If your senator is one of the 7 Republicans who voted against the original voucher bill, it is especially important to let them know you support their position and thank them!
If they voted Yes before, ask them to change their vote to No.
Contact your Representative; find representative contact information here. Ask them to remain firm to the version of HB 68 that passed out of the House. We need you to do this ASAP, too, because if HB 68 passes on the Senate floor, it immediately returns to the House for a Yea or Nay vote. There will be no new House committee hearing for the bill. The House can "stand firm" on their version of the bill (i.e. - no voucher/education savings account language).
Some points you can use to help convince your legislators that HB 68 in its current form is bad for Georgia:
This bill is not revenue neutral; a similar bill in the House (HB 301) has a fiscal note showing an annual additional cost of millions of dollars. Without a fiscal note on the current HB 68, we do not know the cost. This is not fiscally responsible.
Public schools and students funded through QBE are expected to reach specific academic standards; there is no similar expectation for students who receive a voucher. Students receiving QBE dollars should be required to meet Georgia education standards. Otherwise, there is no accountability to Georgia taxpayers.
The bill only requires "random audits," not audits of all accounts. An audit of a similar program in Arizona found persistent instances of fraud.
Just as Georgia has counties without social workers, counselors, mental health professionals, etc., it also has large areas without any private schools. This bill will not benefit students in rural areas of Georgia.
Georgia already has a 2 voucher programs - one specifically for special needs. There has not been an assessment of the academic outcomes of these programs.
It only takes a few minutes to call or email. What happens in most offices is that a legislative aide will answer the phone, you say that you are a constituent and you are thanking or asking for the legislator's "No" vote to HB 68. The aide might ask for your name and then will thank you. That's it. No drama. No lengthy discussion. Quick, simple, and polite.
Share with your friends, family, and community. The goal is to STOPHB 68 from passing the Senate in its current form!
Thank you for all you're doing for Georgia's children!
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