House Education Committee Passes Bill Renaming Voucher Program

The full House Education Committee convened after the subcommittee concluded. HB 855, which seeks to address special education services for foster children, was pulled from the agenda. The committee considered only one bill, HB 1 by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), which would rename Georgia’s special education voucher program the “Senator Eric Johnson Scholarship” in honor of former state senator Johnson, who represented the Savannah area. When presenting the bill to the committee, Petrea mentioned that he often works with children with developmental disabilities and said of the voucher program, “I think everyone agrees that this has been a tremendous benefit to those children.” Petrea reported that Johnson was a fan of school choice before it was “cool.” 

Under Georgia’s special education voucher program, students accepting the voucher have no guarantee of receiving special education services at the private schools which they attend, and the schools are not required to follow special education laws. For more, read the PAGE special report on the voucher program, Pushing Public Dollars to Private Schools . HB 1 passed unanimously and now moves to House Rules, which is expected to schedule it for a floor vote. 

Committee members also conducted several housekeeping items. HR 791 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) was assigned to the Academic Support Subcommittee. The non-binding resolution encourages the Georgia High School Association to perform a thorough assessment of its operations and practices.

Several representatives from residential treatment centers addressed the committee before it adjourned. Their compelling presentation was similar to one delivered to the Senate Education and Youth Committee and is described in PAGE’S budget hearing and committee report.

-Full report by Margaret Ciccarelli