Despite its appearance near the bottom of the ballot, 75 percent of Georgia GOP primary voters this week supported additional school choice options when voting on a non-binding ballot question. More Republicans answered the ballot question than cast votes in the U.S. Senate race, which was placed at the top of the ballot.
There is an open voting primary law in Georgia, meaning residents can vote in one of the primaries even if not registered as a member of the party. Since the ballot question is non-binding, no policy changes will occur, but the results help gauge public opinion.
The question read: “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? Yes or No.”
Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, told Watchdog.org the state legislature is failing to expand school choice programs.
“We were not surprised that three out of four voters said they support school choice, because polling consistently shows majorities of Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, African-American, Hispanic and white voters want more choices for their children,” said McCutchen. “We are surprised the Georgia General Assembly hasn’t responded more strongly to this call to action.”
Some taxpayers have expressed satisfaction with existing school choice programs in Georgia. For example, a 2012 survey of families participating in the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program showed 98 percent of parents and guardians were pleased with their child’s new school, while only 14 percent were happy with their child’s previous public school.
Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children, applauded the votes cast in the primary for several candidates who support school choice. The American Federation for Children Action Fund’s state affiliated political committees spent more than $110,000 in support of 27 candidates in 25 races, from both parties in the House and Senate.
“Tuesday’s results are clear, voters want more school choice and embrace pro-school choice candidates,” said DeVos in a press release. “We hope policy makers throughout Georgia recognize the hunger parents have for school choice and embrace the future of education, which focuses on ensuring every child reaches his or her fullest potential and receives a world class education.”