State Sen. Greg Dolezal was unsuccessful in getting his first bill passed but said he didn’t come to the Gold Dome to champion small ideas.
Senate Bill 173, sponsored by Dolezal, fell short of passing in a 25-28 vote on Tuesday. The bill sought to establish an “educational scholarship fund” made up “of state funds deposited on behalf of participating students” wanting to continue their education outside of a public school.
“This would be a bill where the state funding would follow the student into customized education options: everything from virtual schooling, co-ops, homeschooling, private schooling tutoring, etc.,” Dolezal said on Thursday. “The bill really focused on students who may not be able to get what they need from public education.”
Dolezal, who represents the majority of Forsyth County, said while public education works for the “vast, vast majority” of Forsyth County students, it’s not one-size-fits-all.
The bill would have only applied to students meeting one of five criteria: coming from a family below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, being adopted from foster care, having a parent serve active-duty in the military and stationed in Georgia, suffering from among one of nine disabilities and those who have been bullied.
Dolezal said similar legislation has been passed in Florida and Arizona and was being considered in 25 other states.
He said while his bill wasn’t passed, he didn’t think the matter was settled and said State Rep. Wes Cantrell, who represents a small portion of Forsyth County, had a similar bill in the House.
In the 2016 Republican general primary, Georgia voted ‘yes’ by about 75 percent of the vote statewide and 74 percent in Forsyth County in the state Republican question of “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?”
Dolezal said the bill was a heavy-lift for a first bill from a freshman state Senator but he wanted to do bring innovative ideas to the Georgia General Assembly.
“Usually, the first bill is kind of a small one-pager exactly,” Dolezal said. “But this bill having the support of the lieutenant governor and the governor was something that felt more substantial. We went down there to move big legislation. We didn't go down there to pass small ideas. We went down there to pass big ideas, and this was the first of the big idea to get a shot.
“It fell a little bit short, but it’s good policy. Hopefully, it got the conversation started.”