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Lawmakers want private schools to be an option

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By Delivrine Registre - bio | email

February 2, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Georgia could become the first state in the United States to allow all school children the opportunity to attend private school under a bill introduced Monday during the legislative session.

Senate Bill 90 would give parents $5,000 to help pay for private school tuition. An option parent Joni Green wishes she already had. "If it were an option I would definitely go for it."

Senator Eric Johnson of Savannah said the universal voucher program would help students who are not benefiting from public school. And Green agrees. "Each child is an individual, and each child has individual needs. This school may provide certain things for that child and the next school may provide something better."

Three conditions would apply under the program. The Private school would have to agree to accept that student. The parents would have to make all the transportation arrangements. And parents and students must agree to follow that schools rules at the risk of going back to public school.

But public school administrators say parents already have the option to move their child to another school under no child left behind. "But we also have options in Magnet school choice and opportunities for parents and students to chose the curriculum they prefer to pursue," said Dougherty Public Information Director, R. D. Harter.

And they worry the program would hurt their limited state funding especially in this economy. "We've had $60 million in budget cuts over the past five or six years, and any threat to funding would further diminish our ability to provide quality education to children," said Harter.

School administrators say they would rather that money be put into programs that are already working to improve public schools. This year, the state is spending about $5.6 million to place about 1600 special needs students into 145 private schools under a limited voucher program.

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