Back from the dead: Voucher/education savings account bill

UPDATE: The bill did not pass Thursday in the final frenzied hours of the 2015 Georgia Legislature.

Resurrections can occur during the last days of the Georgia General Assembly, and word tonight is a bad anti-public education bill has found new life.

House Bill 243 – a voucher bill described in the more benign language of “Education Savings Account” – was revived as Senate Bill 116 , which was Sen. William Ligon’s Celebrate Freedom Week legislation. (Ligon is the driving force behind dumping Common Core and sanitizing AP U.S. History.)

It's alive and it's coming for your tax dollars. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

The freedom week reference has been stripped from SB 116 and replaced with House Bill 243. An education watcher at the Capitol said, “The bill is not yet on the House Rules calendar, but several supplemental calendars are expected tomorrow.”

If the bill passes the House in its reincarnated state, it returns to the Senate, which didn't like it the first time around.

There’s a lot not to like.

If parents pull their children out of Georgia public schools, HB 243 gives them the money the state would have spent on their child. For most families, that would mean about $4,000 from the taxpayers of this state.

And what could parents do with that $4,000?

The funds would go into an education savings account parents could tap for anything related to education, books, private schools, homeschooling, music lessons or even college.

As my colleague Jay Bookman noted, “We have schools in this state that haven't been able to keep their doors open for 180 days a year; we have schools in which band and music programs have had to be slashed to the bone or even eliminated. And we're going to divert state taxpayer money to finance private piano and violin lessons for private-school students whose parents would be paying for such things anyway?”

Bill sponsor Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said the bill offers parental choice. "We are giving a menu of choices to parents. This is not an anti-public school system bill."

But Hamilton’s bill is an extension of the fallacious argument that "the money should follow the students because it's their money."

It’s not the students’ money. It’s not the parents’ money.

It’s the community’s money. Taxpayers contribute to the common cause of public education because they believe it’s a collective responsibility to educate the next generation for the good of all.

Parents have every right to demand more accountability and choice in the existing public system, but they should not expect the rest of the community to foot the bill for vouchers or violin.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.