General Assembly sends Promise Scholarship Act to Governor

The Georgia House took a crucial step toward creating the state’s first education scholarship account (ESA) program by approving Senate Bill 233 on Thursday. 

The vote to create Promise Scholarship accounts was 91-82, the minimum number of “yes” votes required for approval.  

It came almost one year after the House rejected the bill by six votes; a motion to reconsider kept it alive for 2024.

The bill did change in the interim. The program will be capped at 1% of the state’s QBE funding formula for the previous year — which for the 2025 budget year would amount to $141 million (one-hundredth of QBE’s $14.1 billion total). It is also subject to a 10-year sunset which would be triggered in 2035 if not repealed.

These limitations came on top of the bill’s existing eligibility requirement which restricts applicants to those students who live in the attendance zones of the bottom 25% of schools. There were also other education funding provisions added unrelated to the program. 

The vote came after not only Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt, Gov. Burt Jones voiced their support for the bill, but Speaker Jon Burns took the rare step Wednesday of appearing in a committee hearing to endorse it.

While the bill does not match the universal eligibility of similar programs in Florida, North Carolina and, most recently, Alabama — as well as numerous other Republican-led states — it is nonetheless a significant step forward.

If fully funded, the scholarships of $6,500 could be awarded to almost 22,000 students.

Update: On Wednesday, March 20, the Senate agreed with the changes, officially sending the bill to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

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