In January, I announced the policy goals that GeorgiaCAN would champion during the 2018 legislative session with one priority in mind:  removing barriers to access for every Georgia child to attend a great school, regardless of their address. Our goals were to:

  • Support the funding of the charter facility grant program
  • Ensure charter public schools are equitably funded
  • Restore the AP exam subsidy for low-income students across all subjects
  • Move Georgia to a student-centric state education funding formula

How did we fare? With a year of big wins–including an historic budget agreement–for education!

At GeorgiaCAN, we measure progress during the legislative session based on three potential outcomes, borrowed from our national support team at 50CAN.

This year, students won–driven by the momentum of advocacy from our committed base of community members, parents, students, teachers and elected officials who believe in great schools. Thank you! What do these wins mean for Georgia kids, exactly?

  1. Greater and more fair access to rigorous college preparation courses for kids from low-income households.
  2. Double the scholarship funds for low-income families to send their kids to great private schools. 
  3. Fairer funding for charter schools.

Beyond these policy victories in the Peach State, our team was proud to support two more policy developments: the reduction of early-learning suspensions (HB 740) and, for the first time in decades, fully funding the state’s education funding formula.

Support high-quality school options by ensuring all public schools are equitably funded and eliminating the funding disparities public charter schools face.

  • WIN: The GeorgiaCAN team and charter school partners across the state successfully advocated for the passage of HB 787, which increases funding for state charter schools by $18 million. The legislation also uses a new funding formula that brings state-approved charters closer to a level of equity between their funding and that of their surrounding traditional public schools. The bill also establishes a grant program to replicate high-performing charters that focus on serving low-income students, students with special needs and students in rural communities.

Pass legislation to raise the cap of the tuition tax-credit scholarship program to benefit more children seeking an educational alternative and increase the transparency of the program.

  • WIN: A major victory for students, GeorgiaCAN worked with coalition partners for more than a year to pass HB 217, which nearly doubled the student scholarship tax credit program by raising the cap from $58 million to $100 million annually. The legislation also included increased transparency and better annual reporting, requiring student scholarship organizations to disclose both the number of students they serve in income brackets based on the federal poverty level and the average size of scholarships awarded by income bracket.

Restore the AP exam subsidy for low-income students.

  • WIN: GeorgiaCAN worked with the state legislature to restore funding to allow low-income students to take an AP exam in a non-STEM field at no cost. Through funding in HB 683 and HB 684, all low-income students in the state can now take one STEM and one non-STEM AP exam for free.

We know that the end of a legislative session or the passage of a bill is not the end of our work, but rather a step in a continuing journey to bring a high-quality education to all kids, regardless of their address. We aim to learn from our successes and setbacks as we chart the path forward–and I hope you’ll be part of that journey.

Join the GeorgiaCAN mailing list today and we’ll keep you posted over the summer about ways to get involved directly in your community!

Michael O’Sullivan is the executive director of GeorgiaCAN.


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