School choice; House Bill 60 takes action
Representative Wes Cantrell, one of the original architects of TKA, has been waging a war in support of school choice for his entire term as a Georgia State Representative. His desire for school choice began with his involvement in the founding of The King’s Academy and his background in education.
“My family was one of three that started The King’s Academy back in 1998. At the same time, I was teaching public school in Cobb County,” said Rep. Cantrell.“When I got elected, the first thing I asked for was to be on the education committee.”
What started as a fledgling desire grew to be one of the hallmarks of Cantrell’s representative term, sparking a seven year struggle for the educational future of Georgia's youth.
“I’m trying to provide an option for parents who can’t afford private school tuition or who might need a more customized approach for their child, be it homeschooling or a hybrid between homeschool, online and tutoring,” said Rep. Cantrell.
He currently has two bills that focus on giving students funding for private school tuition and other educational vendors, such as tutoring, therapy and textbook companies.
“What House Bill 999 did that was different from my previous bill was that it was a much more simple bill,” said Rep. Cantrell. “It provided school choice for all. It didn’t have any qualifiers except that the student has to be currently enrolled in public school.”
Though House Bill 999, or HB 999, is a farther reaching bill, Cantrell has put it on the backburner as of now to focus on pushing HB 60.
“Right now my emphasis is on House Bill 60 because it's currently positioned so that it could be voted for any day now, whereas 999 will require another step of getting it out of committee, and to be honest, I am not confident that I have the votes to do so,” said Rep. Cantrell.
HB 999 and 60 have very similar goals. However, they approach the school choice issue differently. HB 60 focuses on six different sections of Georgia students who are most in need of financial education aid. The categories cover students in lower income families, those who are districted from continually underperforming schools, those in foster care or adopted out, military families, special needs students and students who attend a public school that has been closed to in-person instruction for at least a semester.
While Cantrell has not been successful so far in passing a school choice bill, he has high hopes for HB 60’s future in the governmental process.
“I’ve been trying to figure out a way to advance this agenda, and that was the purpose behind House Bill 999,” said Rep. Cantrell. “It passed out of [education] subcommittee a couple weeks ago; a bill held over from last year, House Bill 60 passed out of full committee, so it's in the rules committee right now and could be up for a floor vote [soon].”