Three out of four voters participating in Georgia’s recent GOP primary expressed support for more school choice in the state.
The statewide Republican primary ballot asked voters in May 2016: “Should Georgia empower parents with the right to use the tax dollars allocated for the education of their children, allowing them the freedom to choose among public, private, virtual, and home schools?”
Seventy-five percent of the 580,000 Republican voters who responded voted in favor of the question. “Yes” votes carried every county in the state.
The ballot question is non-binding and will not change any laws, but was intended to gauge voter interest in school choice measures. Georgia currently has two private school choice programs: the Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit, a tax-credit scholarship program created for former public school students, and the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program, a school voucher program.
According to a January 2015 poll sponsored by the American Federation for Children, nearly 70 percent of Americans support school choice. Heather Kays, senior education reporter for Watchdog.org, says the Georgia primary results are in keeping with the national study’s findings.
“It is a positive step for Georgia Republicans to gauge support for school vouchers using a primary ballot question,” Kays said. “GOP voters widely support school choice and the majority of polls and surveys regarding school choice, regardless of political affiliation of those questioned, indicate there is strong support for choice programs.”
‘Crystal Clear’ Research
Benjamin Scafidi, Georgia Public Policy Foundation senior fellow, says substantial support for school choice is based on such programs’ positive, far-reaching results.
“School choice is a wonderful idea,” Scafidi said. “The research on school choice is crystal clear. It’s win-win. Students who access school choice programs and go to the school of their choice benefit on educational outcomes and non-educational outcomes.”
Scafidi says measures with a structure like that proposed by the Georgia ballot question have the potential to benefit students culturally, socially, and economically.
Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.