Universal school voucher bill fails to pass Georgia Legislature

Thursday, March 12, 2009 2:43 PM
Last updated 3:40 PM
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ATLANTA — A bill that would have made Georgia the first state in the nation with a universal school voucher program has died after education lobbyists mounted a campaign against the measure.

Sen. Eric Johnson, a Savannah Republican, said Thursday he doesn't have the votes to pass the bill, which would have used tax dollars to pay for parents to send their children to any public or private school in the state. The bill would have expanded a two-year-old program that grants such vouchers to special needs students in Georgia.

"I knew this would be a tough fight," Johnson said, standing the floor of the Senate. "My goal is to continue to expand the options for parents to educate their children with their own tax dollars."

Thursday is the deadline by which all bills must pass one of the chambers of the Georgia Legislature to make it to the governor's desk this year. The Senate did not have the voucher bill on its agenda.

Although a bill could be resurrected by being attached to another measure, it is a rare.

The voucher bill, which was expected to set off a contentious debate, passed the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 26 but never made it onto the floor for a vote.

Johnson said he will try again next session, which begins in January.

But he faces an uphill battle with Georgia Democrats and some conservative Republicans, who have said a voucher program only takes money away from low performing schools and provides little oversight of how taxpayer money is being used.

"The majority of legislators didn't want to do something that could have a negative impact on public schools," said Sen. Gail Buckner, a Democrat from Morrow and member of the Senate Education Committee.

Education lobbying groups like the Georgia Association of Educators, the Georgia School Boards Association and the Georgia School Superintendents Association campaigned against the bill with thousands of calls and e-mails to lawmakers. Other groups like the League of Women Voters and the Anti-Defamation League joined in the fight to quash the bill.

Jeff Hubbard, president of GAE, which represent 40,000 educators across the state, said he doubts Johnson will ever get the support he needs to pass a universal voucher bill because of how controversial the programs are. No state has successfully passed one despite several attempts.

"He didn't have the votes this year, and we don't think he will next year," Hubbard said, referring to Johnson.

Lawmakers should work on fixing public education rather than taking tax dollars away from low-performing schools, Hubbard said.

Last year Johnson tried to pass a bill giving vouchers to students who wanted to transfer out of low-performing schools, but the measure failed in the final hours of the legislative session.

Georgia isn't the only state that has tried to implement a universal voucher program.

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have voucher programs for low-income or special-needs students, but none are universal, according to the Washington, D.C.,-based Center for Education Reform, which tracks such programs nationally. Utah lawmakers put a universal program on a referendum ballot in 2007, but voters overwhelmingly quashed it.

Under Georgia's special needs voucher program, about 1,600 students are attending 145 private schools this year on vouchers, according to the Georgia Department of Education. The students are receiving $5.6 million in state funding to attend the schools.

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intheknow
16
Points
intheknow 03/12/09 - 04:08 pm
0
0
Good. If you want your child

Good. If you want your child to attend a private school, then you should pay for it>

Captain Awesome
0
Points
Captain Awesome 03/12/09 - 04:09 pm
0
0
That could have really helped

That could have really helped the state.

If you break everything out, private schools teach children for much less per child than public schools. This could have been a boone to our resources.

We have some great people working public schools now. But it's not a system that's working so hot right now.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 03/12/09 - 04:37 pm
0
0
What are Hubbard and his

What are Hubbard and his fellow special-interest lobbyists doing to establish all GA classrooms as learning venues? Why do he and his greedy ilk ignore the fact that many of our public school classrooms have been destroyed as instructional sites by disrespectful and/or disruptive pupils?

wcr250
71
Points
wcr250 03/12/09 - 04:55 pm
0
0
Anything to keep the liberal

Anything to keep the liberal agenda alive. They know real education is dangerous. Keep these low performance and sub standard schools in business.

wcr250
71
Points
wcr250 03/12/09 - 04:56 pm
0
0
Intheknow, you went to a

Intheknow, you went to a government school didn't you

bentman
458
Points
bentman 03/12/09 - 05:11 pm
0
0
When you want to take over a

When you want to take over a country start by commandeering the schools. Educate the future generations only so far as they will make good subjects for the kingdom. Then you will keep them under your thumb. Let them get out of the tentacles of the king and you risk them becoming self-sufficient, independent thinkers and doers.

momofthree
0
Points
momofthree 03/12/09 - 06:05 pm
0
0
intheknow, apparently you

intheknow, apparently you have the funds available to pay for a private education for your child(ren) public schools are deplorable, the tiniest things become major offenses while what shold be considered major falls at the wayside.--------------------All parents who what a say in their childrens' education check out www.k12.com/ga good strong education that allows religion to be taught and the parent to control how the child is educated. If I had this available for my older two I would have taken it without hessitation. My youngest is now maintaing straight A's and is more active than he ever was in the public system.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 03/12/09 - 07:29 pm
0
0
When the teachers say the

When the teachers say the teachers union isn't a major influence in Ga, they seem to be mistaken. When the left AND the right bow down to them, they have plenty of influence. Once again, the taxpayer and his children come out the loser. Politics as usual.

I4PUTT
5
Points
I4PUTT 03/12/09 - 07:43 pm
0
0
momofthree, I still think

momofthree, I still think size matters but I have to agree with you on this issue. I think we all pay for our children's education as well as that of others. I think vouchers could be the best thing that ever happened to both public schools and private. Competition is a good thing.

notme
40
Points
notme 03/12/09 - 11:33 pm
0
0
Competition is a good thing

Competition is a good thing when all schools educate by the same rules. No accounting, no rules, no posting of scores, etc for private schools. The problem for this conservative is Sonny and Eric (DEMS too!) are doing a hatchet job to public schools.

TechLover
15
Points
TechLover 03/13/09 - 06:44 am
0
0
Give the private schools many

Give the private schools many of the same kids that are in public schools and their performace will be the same. PT:Why aren't you ranting against the General Assembly wanting to "redistribute" our tax dollars to private individuals? Personal responsibility?

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