On school vouchers: SEF lauds Georgia lawmakers, disappointed in Florida leaders’ decision

STATEMENT FROM SEF: March 31, 2023

On Georgia legislators’ decision against major voucher expansion: The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) is grateful to Georgia legislators, educators, parents, students, and advocates this week for stopping a major expansion of private school vouchers in the state.

Above all, SEF and many other education and civil rights organizations support and value our public education system and the millions of students they serve.

Many Georgia legislators decided not to move forward on a voucher plan, after many of their constituents voiced their concerns that it would destabilize the public education system in Georgia. We thank the many legislators on both sides of the aisle for voting with conviction and focusing on strengthening the public education system. We will continue to advocate for improvements in the public school system and oppose any efforts to defund the public education in Georgia and throughout the southern region.

While we share the excitement among many advocates in Georgia, let’s remember that our work is not about political victories, but on behalf of the students themselves.

While lawmakers devoted days and weeks to hearings on vouchers and other topics, major issues in education have gone largely ignored.

Georgia lawmakers spent months hearing from people across the state calling for changes to the state’s school funding system to ensure students from low-income households have the support they need to succeed in school and life. Georgia also needs to expand its pre-K program and other early childhood services, which unlike school vouchers are proven to make a difference in preparing children for school and helping them achieve many positive outcomes in the classroom and beyond.

On Florida’s passage of universal school vouchers: SEF is disappointed in Florida lawmakers’ recent decision to move forward with a universal private school voucher proposal. The Florida program will lead to the defunding of public schools that serve the overwhelming majority of the state’s children. Vouchers are a short-sighted public policy that already costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and we will continue to work with state legislators and education advocacy groups to remedy this decision in the future.

Despite the region’s remarkable economic and social progress, some state leaders are pushing us away from the issues that bring everyone together and that will determine our economic future and the well-being of our families and communities across the South.

We need additional and more equitably distributed funding in Georgia and many other states to strengthen the public education system, support our educators and encourage more great people to enter the field, support our students through high-impact tutoring and personalized learning among many other programs, and early childhood programs to give every student a great start.