Senate bill would provide $6,000 education vouchers for students in low-performing districts
It's a bill that could drastically change the education landscape here in Baldwin County.
Senate Bill 233, which would give $6,000 "promise scholarships" to children in low-performing school districts, recently passed the Georgia Senate by a vote of 33-23. Sen. Rick Williams of Milledgeville was one of those who voted in favor of the bill, which now moves on to the House of Representatives, where it's also expected to pass with strong Republican support.
The entire bill, in its current form, can be read by clicking this PDF –>Senate Bill 233.pdf
Only students in "the lowest 25 percent of all public schools" would be eligible for the voucher, which could be used towards virtual school and homeschooling, as well as private schools in that district.
Here's a question-and-answer session:
QUESTION: What does this mean for John Milledge Academy and Georgia Military College Prep?
ANSWER: All private schools, according to the bill, can "opt in" to the Promise Scholarship program, but they can also choose not to participate. According to the bill, a private school would have to notify the newly-created Office of Student Achievement "of its intention to participate in the program and that complies with the commission's requirements." When and if the bill becomes law, JMA and GMC Prep would have to make that choice. However, in the future, it would be interesting to see if new private schools began cropping up around Baldwin County.
QUESTION: What about current private school students?
ANSWER: Current private school students "would not qualify" for a Promise Scholarship if the bill becomes law, according to this Associated Press article.
QUESTION: What about homeschooling?
ANSWER: The bill also includes verbiage for "nonpublic online learning programs and courses," "tutoring services" and "payment for the purchase of a curriculum, including any supplemental materials required by the curriculum."
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QUESTION: Will Baldwin County students be eligible?
ANSWER: If the bill becomes law, it's highly likely that Baldwin County School District schools would be considered "in the lowest 25 percent of all public schools." It not immediately clear how the state of Georgia would calculate the list, but last year Oak Hill eighth graders finished in the bottom 6 percent (152nd out of 159 county school systems) in the subject of reading on the Georgia Milestones Test. Out of the 80 Georgia school systems to test at least 300 eighth graders, the Baldwin County School District finished in last place at 80th. Meanwhile, a total of 52.4 percent of BCSD fifth graders were reading below grade level during the previous school year, according to the data. That ranked 196th out of the 210 total Peach State school systems with registered scores (the 6.7th percentile). In Middle Georgia, only Macon County and Hancock County were below Baldwin.