Georgia > Education Savings Accounts Jumpstarted

| March 12, 2015


ATLANTA — Imagine if you could use state dollars earmarked for your child toward other educational expenses or even private school tuition.  The Georgia House may let your imagination become reality.

The Georgia House is considering, again, Educational Savings Accounts which would allow parents to set up a mechanism to sweep the state’s share of money for their student into an account.  This year that would be $4,400 per child.  Federal and local funds would stay with the local school district as is now the case.

The proposal, initiated by Representative Mark Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming, stated in a Macon Telegraph article that the bill would let parents chose the best strategy for their child, whether that is private school, tutoring programs or even home schooling.

“Sometimes parents know the best for their children, and this is simply giving them a pathway if they want to exercise that,” Hamilton said.

The bill has been held in committee for some time and there are doubts it will see much traction as the process has gone so far.

Arizona and Florida currently have similar programs active with a dozen other states considering similar legislation.  Opposition groups have stated the programs provide a way to get around state law prohibiting state funds being used for religious schools.

The Georgia School Board Association has stated the bill is no more than a voucher program.  They would rather see the proposal studied by a Governor-appointed commission.

House Democrats, including Mickey Stephens of Savannah, reiterated the proposal as nothing more than another voucher program.

“If you can afford to send your kids to private school, you don’t need a voucher,” he said in the Telegraph story.

Currently, Georgia has programs in place to assist families who utilized private schools and special needs requirements.  The state’s tuition tax credit program allows credit to individuals for donating toward private school scholarships managed by non-profits and special needs scholarships for students with disabilities or other eligible requirements.

Hamiton’s bill would require students to attend public school for at least one year to be eligible with a cap of 8,500 students statewide in the program for the 2015-16 school year, increasing to 17,000 the next.  There would be no cap after that.  The bill would also disqualify students entering kindergarten or first grade from participating to address home and private school concerns for children who will never attend public schools.

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