Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vouchers 'Politically off the Table'; A State Senator Says Tax Credits Are More Likely to Pass; Democrats Object

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vouchers 'Politically off the Table'; A State Senator Says Tax Credits Are More Likely to Pass; Democrats Object

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA -- Vouchers for private-school tuition face too many political hurdles to be passed by the General Assembly, according to Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson.

Instead, tax credits for parents who pay tuition on their own may pass, the Savannah Republican said in remarks this week before the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

But the leader of the Senate Democrats, Sen. Robert Brown of Macon, says tax credits are just as objectionable as vouchers.

Johnson was outlining a broad agenda for the coming legislative session in January, assuming the GOP retains control of the Senate as most observers expect. He said education would be a major concern but support for vouchers -- a favorite cause of conservatives -- never materialized from the groups Republicans courted, namely suburbanites and inner-city residents dissatisfied with their local public schools.

"Vouchers are politically off the table," he said.

When asked by an audience member about alternatives, Johnson suggested tax credits as more viable.

"The argument for tax credits is someone already has a child in private school and is already paying for it," he said.

A tax credit would allow parents to reduce what they owe on their state income taxes by an amount based on the tuition paid.

Brown dismissed the proposal as soon as he heard about it.

"The issue is not whether you are pulling anybody out of public school," he said. "The issue is whether you are pulling resources out of the system."

Money the state gives up in credits would not be available for school funding, he said.

Johnson also listed as accomplishments several education-related bills Republicans have already made law since their takeover of the legislature two years ago. Mentioned were laws to hold teachers accountable, create online high school courses, deal more harshly with unruly students, and relaxing rules on the establishment of "charter schools" that can operate outside of some state and local regulations. …

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