Wednesday, March 25, 2009

State Rep. Gerald Greene (D) Cuthbert.

Neo-Private School Vouchers

In what is being labeled a "neo-private school vouchers bill" the House passed HB 100 Monday, Feb. 24 by a vote of 98-69. Last session the General Assembly adopted HB 1133 which gives private citizens and corporations income tax credits for donating money to nonprofit scholarship organizations that provide scholarships to parents who want to pull their children out of public schools and send them to private ones. HB 100 seeks to expand on the provisions of HB 1133, which passed by one vote in 2008, by making it easier for small business to take advantage of the tax credit program. Furthermore, it streamlines the process to create scholarship organizations and for donors to get approved for the tax credits. Under HB 1133 there is a $50 million cap on the total amount of credits available.

The measure is also in conflict with Governor Perdue's legislation that would limit scholarships to students that qualify for school lunches and places a cap on the total value of the scholarships available.

HB 100 is bad for education in our state. It diverts funds going to Georgia's public schools which is wrong when the state is facing an almost $3 billion shortfall. In addition, the Governor's budget cuts $285 million from Georgia's schools this year, which is on top of $1.6 billion since 2003. The $50 million being allocated for the tax credits would be better spent on school nurses, which are slated to be cut by the state, or keeping more teachers from losing their jobs.

Vouchers are also untested and unproven. With vouchers, there is no tracking of educational outcomes and no accountability. Democrats have always made improving public education for Georgia's children and helping classroom teachers a priority, not passing private school vouchers. An economic recession is not the time to be taking away funding that could be dedicated for critical needs in education.

Rep. Greene is right on the mark. This legislation wil only hurt our already ailing school systems (public) here in Georgia. State Sen. Eric Johnson has no business trying to pass this bill just to give a issue to talk about when 2010 rolls around. Instead of trying to solve the school situation, republicans think the answer in vouchers. Boy I can't wait when 2010 rolls around.

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