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HB 0060 - Georgia Educational Scholarship Act; enact

Tracking Level: Hot
Sponsor: Wesley Cantrell
Last Action: 3/31/2021 - House - House Withdrawn, Recommitted
House Committee: Education
Assigned To:
Program FundingNext Bill
VouchersNext Bill

Staff Analysis of the Legislation

GSBA-CWO Header 

SUMMARY:  LC 49 0301  LC 49 0424S   LC 49 0460S  LC 49 0485S

The substitutes for HB 60 have changed it substantially.  This summary is for the most recent substitute from the House Rules Committee. Additions to the bill are marked.

Named the "Georgia Personalized Education Plan Act," this is a voucher bill for parents to pay for qualified education expenses as listed in the bill.  Several groups of students would qualify for the voucher.  Ironically, one of the qualifying groups is students whose school system is not offering 100% instruction in person for a semester, yet one of the qualified expenditures is online learning. 

Details:

The program would be administered by the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC) 

State funds are deposited into an account directed by the parent for qualified education expenses:

  • Tuition, fees, and required textbooks at a participating school
  • Tuition, fees, and required textbooks at a community college or accredited postsecondary institution
  • Tutoring services provided by an educator certified by the Professional Standards Commission
  • Payment for the purchase of a curriculum, including any supplemental materials required by the curriculum
  • Tuition and fees for a nonpublic online learning program or course
  • Services from a physician or therapist licensed according to applicable state laws, including, but not limited to, for occupational, behavioral, physical, or speech-language therapies 
  • Up to $500 per year to a fee-for-service transportation provider to/from a participating school or service provider
  • Fees for the management of account funds as provided in the bill
  • Computer hardware or other technological devices approved by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement or a physician if the computer hardware or other technological device is used to meet the student's educational needs 

Up to 50% of a school year's funds can roll over to the next school year.  Upon high school graduation, any unused funds roll over and may be used for tuition at a postsecondary institution in GA. 

Qualifying students are those with a parent residing in Georgia and meeting one of the following: 

  • Is enrolled in a public school in GA which has placed for 2 consecutive years in the lowest quartile among schools with the same grades on the CCRPI content mastery scores (New) 
  • Family income below 200% of the federal poverty level and currently enrolled in a public school in Georgia
  • Is placed in a foster family home, child care institution, or another substitute care setting approved by the Department of Human Services and is enrolled in a GA public school OR has been adopted from foster care and was enrolled in a GA public school immediately prior to adoption (Expanded)
  • Has a parent who is an active duty military service member stationed in Georgia within the previous year and is currently enrolled in a GA public school
  • Is currently enrolled in a GA public school and has an IEP in accordance with state and federal laws OR has a formal diagnosis from a licensed physician or psychologist OR a Section 504 Plan relating to one or more conditions which shall be identified by the State Board of Education which shall at a minimum including the following:
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
    • Autism spectrum disorder
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Cancer
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Cystic fibrosis 
    • Deafness
    • Down syndrome
    • Drug or alcohol abuse 
    • Dual sensory impairment
    • Dyslexia 
    • Emotional and behavioral disorder
    • Epilepsy
    • Hearing impairment 
    • Intellectual disability
    • Muscular dystrophy 
    • Specific learning disability
    • Spina bifida 
    • Traumatic brain injury
    • Visual impairment 
    • Any rare disease identified by the National Institutes of Health's GEnetic and Rare Diseases Information Center's list of rare diseases 
  • Has spent the previous school year enrolled in a public school in a local school system not currently offering an option for students to receive 100% of instruction in person for at least one semester

Once qualified, eligibility shall continue until the student returns to a public school, graduates from high school, or reaches the age of 20 or 21 for students with special needs 

Students in a Department of Juvenile Justice school are not eligible for the program.

Number of participating students: (Decrease from original bill)

  • In the first year would be limited to one-fourth of one percent of the state-wide total public school enrollment in 2020-2021 school year.  
  • Each year the number would increase by the same percent up to a maximum of 2.5%.
  • There is a local district limit also:
    • In the first year, it is limited to half of 1% of the program total and increase by the same amount each year up to 4%
    • Districts with an enrollment less than the statewide average may limit participating students to one-fourth of 1% the first year with an equal increase each year up to a maximum of 2.5% [Note: it is not clear how a district would limit participation as applications are made to GSFC and processed by them]
  • Annual increases shall not be authorized for any school year for which the General Assembly did not appropriate the full amount of funding provided for QBE (New) 
  • No group has priority over the others (New) 

Parents agree to provide an education in at least reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science; not to enroll the student in any local or state public school while in the program; and to use the funds only for qualified expenses. 

Eligible students cannot be the recipient of or beneficiary of a voucher or other benefit of the special needs voucher program, nor can they apply for it whil in this program. (New) 

Parent assumes full financial responsibility for the education of the student including transportation.  Acceptance of the funds shall have the same effect as parental refusal to consent to services under IDEA and a parental waiver of rights under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Failure to comply with program regulations forfeits the account and any funds in it.

Participating schools must:

  • Demonstrate fiscal soundness by having been open for one school year OR by submitting a financial information report as required in the bill, in lines 166-175
  • Comply with antidiscrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. Section 2000d
  • Comply with all health and safety laws or codes that apply to private schools
  • Comply with provisions of O.C.G.A. 20-2-690 and any other state laws applicable to private schools
  • Employ or contract teachers who have a bachelor's degree or higher OR have at least three years experience in education and annually provide to the parents the relevant credentials of the teachers teaching their students

GSFC shall establish standards the participating school or service provider must meet 

Amount of the voucher:

  • The amount of the voucher would be the amount a school district would have received for the student under QBE (20-2-161) and reduced by the five mill share (20-2-164) (Decrease from original bill)
  • Amount of the voucher is deducted from the resident school district's QBE earnings as voucher students are counted in enrollment for purposes of this calculation

School districts must:

  • Include students in the voucher program in enrollment counts
  • Must make available the statewide assessments (see below under assessments) 

Parent Review Committee:

  • Purpose is to assist in determination of whether certain expenses should qualify
  • Composed of eight parents of participating students; four from school districts with an enrollment over 10,000 and four from districts with an enrollment less than 10,000 (More diverse than original bill)
  • Appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the Executive Director of GSFC
  • Serve one-year terms but may be reappointed
  • Executive Director of GSFC or designee serves as Chair of the Committee but only votes in case of a tie
  • GSFC may request the Committee to determine whether an expenditure of account funds qualifies
  • GSFC may request the Committee review appeals of participating schools or service provider application denials 

Assessments/Accountability:

  • GSFC shall annually approve no fewer than three nationally norm-referenced tests that measure student academic progress in math and language arts
  • Participating private schools shall ensure that all participating students are annually administered a nationally norm-referenced test approved by GSFC OR a statewide assessment administered per 20-2-181 and made available by the resident school system
  • GSFC shall develop a process for the annual administration of a nationally norm-referenced test or a statewide assessment and the collection of results for students not enrolled full-time in a private school
  • Results shall be provided to and collected by GSFC or an organization chosen by GSFC on an annual basis
  • Student information shall be reported and collected in a way that allows the state to aggregate data by grade level, gender, family income level, and race
  • GSFC or the organization it chooses must collect information on high school graduation of participating students
  • GSFC must report annually to the General Assembly no later than December 1st.  The report will be posted on GSFC's website.  It must at least include:
    • Numbers and demographics of participating students and numbers of participating schools
    • Participating performance on nationally norm-referenced tests or statewide assessments, including aggregate information on long-term performance gains
    • Level of parental satisfaction
    • Percentage of funds used for each type of qualified education expense
    • Fiscal impact to state and resident school system, both revenue and expenses.  Fiscal savings to the school districts from students leaving shall be explicitly quantified, even if the public school does not reduce its spending
    • Names of participating schools and number of participating students at each school 
    The report must protect the identity of participating students through whatever means GSFC deems appropriate. 

The Department of Audits and Accounts shall audit the program annually; individual accounts are subject to random audits. 

 

EFFECTIVE DATE:

Upon signature of the Governor or without his signature, for the 2021-22 school year forward 


Bill Summary from the State Site - Click for the State Summary Page / Click for Current Full Text