Voucher program gets OK

ATLANTA - The final pieces of a plan to allow children with disabilities to receive taxpayer money to pay for private education are set to be approved today by the State Board of Education.

 

A list of 113 schools - three from Augusta - eligible for funds from the program, which was created by the General Assembly in April, was given preliminary approval Wednesday.

More than 3,200 parents have told the Department of Education that they're interested in taking part, said Senate President Pro Tem and bill sponsor Eric Johnson, R-Savannah.

Public school advocates battled the program in the General Assembly, arguing that it was the first step toward a wider voucher system that could undermine public education.

The board voted to include the list on a slate of items that are usually approved the next day without debate.

The complete list of approved schools will be on the agency's Web site by Friday. More schools will be added to the list on a regular basis as they are approved.

Episcopal Day School was one of three Augusta-area private schools that applied to participate in the voucher program in the coming year.

Headmaster Ned Murray said the school has received no new inquiries about the program. He also said it was not likely to have much effect on the school because of its high admission standards.

He also said the state aid probably would not be significant enough to help.

Westminster Schools of Augusta and Hope Christian School of Augusta also applied to the program. According to its mission statement, Hope was developed specifically to meet the needs of children in grades 7-12 who face academic and social difficulties. No one at these schools could be reached for comment.

Staff Writer Betsy Gilliland contributed to this article.

ELIGIBLE SCHOOLS

Augusta-area schools approved to accept vouchers for students with learning disabilities:

Episcopal Day School

Hope Christian School

Westminster Schools

For more information on the program: http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/sb10.aspx

*State officials were still seeking additional information from these schools, but they are expected to be approved Thursday.

Source: Georgia Department of Education