Vouchers Approved for Special Needs
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
The parents of children with special needs will be able to receive vouchers to send their children to private schools under a new law signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican.
The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, approved in the state legislative session that wrapped up April 20, is patterned after a similar voucher program in Florida. Although it won’t pay the entire tuition at many private schools, it will pay up to about $9,000 of the cost.
Opponents, including the state’s two teachers’ associations, argued that private schools are not required to accept children with disabilities and won’t be held to the same standards as public schools. They also describe the law as a step in the direction of vouchers for all students.
The governor, who is in his second term, also gave his approval to the Georgia Charter Systems Act, which will allow an entire school district to convert to charter status and receive the same flexibility over administration and instruction as individual charter schools. In the first year, five school systems will be allowed to convert in a pilot project.
A charter advisory committee will also be created to provide technical assistance and review charter petitions.
The fiscal 2008 K-12 education budget of $7.8 billion, an 8.6 percent increase over the current budget, includes $2 million for charter school facilities and to help the charter systems get started.
The budget also includes $178 million for a 3 percent pay raise for teachers, and $1.3 million to cover the 10 percent salary bonus for teachers receiving certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Another $44 million was budgeted for Gov. Perdue’s graduation-coach program, and includes an expansion of the program to the state’s middle schools. ("Graduation Coaches Pursue One Goal," Nov. 15, 2006.)
Vol. 26, Issue 41, Page 21