Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp encouraged lawmakers to pass school choice legislation in his State of the State address.
“Over the last few years, there has been a great deal of debate around different proposals to expand options for students and families when it comes to finding the education that best fits their individual needs,” the governor began in his speech last week.
“I firmly believe we can take an all-of-the-above approach to education whether it’s public, private, homeschooling, charter, or otherwise,” Kemp continued. “It is time for all parties to get around a table and agree on the best path forward to provide our kids the best educational opportunities we can – because that’s what we were elected to do.”
According to Kyle Wingfield, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the bill with the best shot at becoming law is SB 233.
SB 233 would create “Promise Scholarship” accounts – similar to ESAs – for students attending a low-quality public school. Each account would be worth $6,000, the equivalent of the state’s per-pupil funding contribution.
Wingfield told The Lion why the same bill wasn’t able to pass in 2023.
“The big obstacle has really been this argument that some lawmakers have accepted which is that it’s an either/or proposition, that it’s a zero-sum game, [and] that if you allow students to make a different choice it necessarily hurts public schools,” he explained.
Though it was approved by the Georgia Senate, SB 233 failed to pass the House by a margin of just six votes.
The bill was so contentious that Rep. Mesha Mainor of Atlanta switched from the Democratic to Republican Party over the left’s lack of support for school choice.
At the time, Mainor was the only Democrat to vote in favor of the bill. Although it didn’t pass, the measure was approved for reconsideration in 2024.
But with Gov. Kemp’s support, this year could be different.
“We were really grateful to hear the governor come out with such full-throated support for this,” Wingfield told The Lion. “We do believe that’s going to make a big difference. Governor Kemp is not only the governor, but he consistently polls as the most popular Republican in Georgia. His voice carries a lot of weight here.”
“Every child is different and has different needs,” Wingfield concluded. “And we believe very strongly that something like this would put more of our students in a position to get the education they need and really maximize their God-given potential.”