April 2022 Church & State Magazine

Pro-Voucher Group’s Strident Mailing Backfires In Georgia

  Pro-Voucher Group’s Strident Mailing Backfires In Georgia

Legislators in Georgia had been prepared to debate a school voucher bill but dropped the idea after a national pro-voucher group issued a mailer attacking several Republicans.

The American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher group founded by former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, sent mailers to residents of at least 16 legislative districts represented by Republicans attempting to tie them to “radical left” figures, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I am livid,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “I’ve been around politics for a long time, but this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my career and one of the most deceitful. These are people we have tried to help over the years, and they turned to attack us very viciously.”

Ralston told the Journal-Constitution, “That voucher legislation will not move at all in the Georgia House of Representatives this year, period.”

The state has been considering a voucher plan that would create taxpayer-funded subsidies worth $6,000 to pay for private schools. The mailers featured unflattering photos of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and gubernatorial candidate and voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams. The copy read, “The radical left want to cancel your right to choose your child’s school,” and told residents to tell the targeted representatives to “stand up to them.”

Ralston told the Journal-Constitution that the voucher bill had been slated for a vote, but now that would not happen.

“But they have no chance now,” Ralston said. “People who were for it are now against it. People that are undecided are against it. And the people that are against it are even more against it.”

In other news about vouchers:

  • The Arizona Senate has passed two bills that would expand the number of students eligible to use one of its existing private school voucher programs – despite a 2018 referendum vote by residents overwhelmingly opposing vouchers. AU sent a letter to members of the Senate, urging them to reject the bills. The fight now moves to the House of Representatives.
  • ­In New Hampshire, the House Education Committee rejected a bill establishing a voucher program aimed at students attending public schools with mask requirements, calling it “inexpedient to legislate.” This means that the bill isn’t moving forward, but it could be revived later on.
  • Lawmakers in South Carolina have introduced SB 935, which would create a new statewide voucher program. The bill’s opponents have pointed out that the bill lacks important oversight and accountability measures, which are important to prevent the misuse of public funds. AU sent a letter to the Senate Education Committee urging its defeat.
  • Nebraska legislators have voted down a bill that would have created a tuition tax credit, a form of voucher that uses a complicated tax scheme to siphon public money to private schools. Sen. Megan Hunt (D-Omaha) led the opposition, explaining that the bill allows taxpayer dollars to fund schools that can discriminate.

The proponents of the bill were five votes short of overcoming a filibuster.

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