Day 39 was a day of waiting on the shoe to drop but it never came on SB 233. Instead there was a coordinated effort to use the media to put additional pressure on House representatives to pass vouchers in Georgia. The Governor came out in support of SB 233 in its current form on a national syndicated radio program. At the same time, the Lt Gov. tweeted his support for SB 233. All of this coordination was picked up by the AJC and reported almost as it was happening. Without question SB 233 will be brought to the House floor for a vote on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, as the 40th day of the legislative session tolls. The legislative line is that the bill is in continuous change mode with the purpose to gain votes. It is not to make SB 233 a good bill but it is an attempt to make the bill less bad. This is not the standard I can line up with when it comes to state policy.
Let’s face the fact that if they thread the needle and pass this bill in its current lowest form, it will be expanded at a later date. In the future, the current narrow impact of the bill will not remain the same. It will grow and I base that on the the current history with Student Scholarship Organization tax credits. It started in the 30 million dollar range and now is knocking on the door of $130 million with HB 101. This is getting the camel’s nose under the tent scenario which will play out as the SSOs.
There are at least two things that rise to the top that I believe we as educational leaders in our profession must stand up for and plant the flag in the ground:
One: Teacher Retirement System (TRS) – The last best benefit we have to offer our teachers. It is a lifetime benefit that makes up for the relatively low pay for a high calling and for the 30 year commitment to the children of our state.
Two: Resist the voucher push without the same accountability measures and anti discriminatory practices required of Public Schools in our state when we receive the same public funds. The real issue is it will not stop with a “low impact” voucher bill. It is about the money going to private institutions without the same accountability measures. This will result in having two systems of schools being funded by our state for K-12 education that will forever be a financial entitlement the state will have to fund even when the economy goes south. I wonder how the state will handle cutting the voucher money and telling a parent your money will be less this year for your child’s education. This will likely treat kids very differently who come from differing socioeconomic backgrounds. Could be seen as discriminatory?
Why not further invest in Public Education and dig deeper into the reasons for the lower performing schools? There we see that most of those schools who have high poverty and a lower ability to raise the resources are not able to address those low performance issues. They are not adequately resourced to address the unique needs of a high poverty population which extends deep into their communities. There are amazing stories of educational success occurring in those schools and how do we not consider the educational/character progress of those children and just the absolute test scores without that context? (preaching moment, my apologies)
Please continue to shore up our representatives who are standing with us and prepare them for the onslaught of last minute political gamesmanship that will cause a lot of bending but we hope not breaking. We have seen too many former educators in the legislature submit to the political vortex for many reasons. The tornadic political pressures will continue but north is still north!
We are continuing to monitor the FY24 budget and the Senate and the House remain in conference to hammer out differences. As soon as we know where it stands, we will let you know.
GSSA is preparing for the 40th day and we will remain in contact as the political world turns. Have a good day!
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