Local lawmakers had mixed grades when the Georgia Center for Opportunity released its legislator report card June 1.
The report card grades Georgia lawmakers based on how they voted on different education-related bills during the 2017 General Assembly. Grading for the report card was based on the voting of House Bills 340, 217, 224 and 338. Legislators made the honor roll, earning up to half an additional letter grade, if they sponsored or co-sponsored a bill.
HB 340, which passed and will go into effect July 1, will create a $100,000 annual block grant toward the use of facilities and pending appropriations for all Georgia public charter schools. The bill also specifies distributions of federal title funds to locally approved charter schools. HB 217 did not pass. As written when it failed to pass, the bill would increase the cap of the current Tax Credit Scholarship Program from $58 million to $65 million. The bill also included a growth allowance of 10 percent every year up to $100 million. HB 224, which passed and will go into effect July 1, will allow the children of active-duty service members to choose from any public school in their district. HB 338 did pass but without the education savings account amendment. The amendment would have created an account for each qualified student allowing parents to use their children’s state education dollars for “qualifying educational expenses.”
The center is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to creating opportunities for a quality education, fulfilling work and a healthy family life for all Georgians. On their report card, the center awarded up to three points based off of voting for HB 340, HB 217, and HB 338. Lawmakers could only earn up to one point for the voting of HB 224.
District 56 State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, and District 6 State Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna, both were among the ones who made the honor roll, on top of their A grade.
“I am proud to receive the highest grade you could,” said Albers. “I believe that not one size fits all in education. I think the more opportunities and choices we give parents and students, the better off we are going to be.”
Hill said he was also pleased to have received an A and be placed on the honor roll.
“I am proud to support families and children to have educational opportunities and choices,” he said. “We have got to expand choices and options for education to help our public schools deliver better results for families.”
Four local state representatives – District 40’s Rich Golick, R-Smyrna; District 80’s Meagan Hanson, R-Brookhaven; District 52’s Deb Silcox, R-Sandy Springs; and District 51’s Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs – also received A’s on the report card.
“The grade I received is an expression of my support for all approaches to qualified opportunities for parents to educate their children,” Willard said. He added qualified opportunities are ones with high standards that will be enforced.
Silcox and Hanson both said they were happy to have received such a high grade. Hanson added she was disappointed to see HB 217 and the education savings account amendment fail in the Senate. She said she hopes when these issues are brought up in the future that her “colleagues in the Senate will be more open to supporting these measures.”
District 53 State Rep. Sheila Jones, D-Atlanta, was the only local lawmaker to receive a B grade. Local legislators receiving a C grade were District 54 State Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta, District 36 State Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, and District 38 State Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta. District 39 State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, was the only local lawmaker to receive a D grade.
Beskin, Fort, Golick, Jones, Orrock and Tate were unavailable for comment regarding their grades.
For more information on the center or to find out more on the report card, visit www.georgiaopportunity.org.