Public schools are funded and governed by the public and are meant to educate all students.
Yet, public resources are increasingly being diverted to privately-run programs that have little public oversight and accountability.
Learn more about IDRA’s work to keep the public in public education below.
While proponents of privately-run programs complain about underperforming public schools and argue that equity and family empowerment can be achieved through “school choice,’ research shows that not all choices are created equal. In fact, the practice of diverting public money for private ventures can increase racial and socioeconomic segregation and, more times than not, does not offer clear academic advantages for underserved students or families. Instead, public school communities are harmed by the loss of much-needed resources. Real family empowerment and student success stems from strong public schools, not private choices for a select few.
Georgia has two programs that allow public funds to flow into private schools. The state operates a voucher program for students with disabilities that allow students to attend private schools. In the most recent legislative session, Georgia legislators passed a bill that expands access to this scholarship for students with plans under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This expansion will significantly expand the amount of money taken out of public schools to support these students as there are a significant number of students that use 504 plans in Georgia (nearly 29,000 in 2015). Furthermore, students who accept these vouchers lose several important constitutional protections by attending private schools.
Georgia also has a tax-credit scholarship program that allows individuals or corporations to donate to private scholarship-funding organizations that fund scholarships for any Georgia student. The state may spend up to $100 million annually as of 2018. A bill was proposed in the 2021 legislative session to increase the cap but did not pass. Unlike many other scholarship programs, eligibility does not take into account whether students attend poor performing schools or have limited economic resources.
A third kind of voucher program, a state-sponsored education savings account, was proposed in 2019 and again in 2020 but failed to receive passage through the Georgia legislature likely due to the cost estimated at up to $543 million over 10 years.
Georgia ranks 10th on the list of state top spending on school voucher programs at $74.8 million (0.43% of Georgia’s combined program and public K-12 expenditures).
Policy Recommendations for Georgia
To keep the public in public education, Georgia education leaders should:
- Eliminate harmful, unnecessary exclusionary discipline practices inside schools for all students, not just our youngest learners in pre-school.
- Incorporate restorative practices and other interventions as an alternative to exclusionary discipline.
- Prohibit corporal punishment of all kinds in schools.
- End the regular presence of police inside schools, while also collecting and publishing comprehensive disaggregated policing data from schools with continued police presence.
- Ensure school safety and foster positive school climates by providing critical funds for school-based professionals, like counselors and social workers while expanding implementation of safer research-based programs such as restorative practices and social-emotional learning programs.
For more information, contact Terrence Wilson, J.D., IDRA Regional Policy and Community Engagement Director (firstname.lastname@example.org).