Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Johnathon Kelso
Students Elizabeth Cing and Veronica Nuam work inside the smart lab at St. Peter Claver Regional School. Archdiocesan leaders are eyeing how a new state voucher measure might help new families better afford Catholic schools.


Catholic leaders eyeing impact of newly-passed school voucher measure 

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published April 10, 2024

ATLANTA—With a year to go before its implementation, archdiocesan school leaders are seeking more information to understand how the Georgia education voucher initiative may affect area schools.  

The proposal will not go into effect until the 2025 school year, giving state regulators a chance to finalize how the program will work. And there are unanswered questions about the state’s “Promise Scholarships” before Superintendent Dr. Diane Starkovich said she will know its impact.  

“My hope is that Catholic families who haven’t registered in our schools will see a path to better being able to afford our schools,” she said in email.  

According to the Georgia Catholic Conference:  

  • The bill, which was approved on March 20 by the Georgia Senate, would provide $6,500 “Promise Scholarships” to students attending public schools that rank in Georgia’s bottom 25% for academic achievement.  
  • State money could be spent on private school tuition, home schooling supplies, therapy, tutoring or even early college courses for high school students. 
  • It would not go into effect until the 2025-2026 school year.  

According to the Associated Press, more than 21,000 students could be eligible for the scholarships. The legislation requires existing students to have attended a qualifying school for at least two semesters, or about to enter kindergarten. It also limits participation to families earning less than 400% of the federal poverty level, which for a family of four would be less than $124,800 to qualify. 

Frank Mulcahy, the executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, said the Georgia bishops supported the passage of this bill during the past few years before it finally passed both the state Senate and the House of Representatives. The conference represents the two Catholic dioceses in the state on issues of public policy.  

Mulcahy said the bill is consistent with the principles of Catholic social teaching by empowering parents of lower income families to choose schools for their children.  

“The new law will not serve every child, but it makes a start, and it starts with less wealthy families. Catholic social teachings recognize parents as the first educators of their children and calls us to serve the marginalized,” he said in an email.  

The new education initiative comes as there are more empty desks in classrooms.  

Catholic schools in Atlanta have suffered an enrollment dip, some 5 percent since 2019, according to archdiocesan records.  

In 2023, 10,564 students attended schools, about 400 fewer young people than three years earlier.  

With the $6,500 education vouchers, parents would still be required to cover school tuition and other costs.  

Looking at one grade school, St. Peter Claver Regional School in Decatur, families who are not Catholic pay $11,700, according to its website. Educating a high school student attending St. Mary’s Academy in Fayetteville, costs $17,115. Catholic families active at their parish receive a discount.  

Scholarships may help bridge the financial gap. According to the Archdiocese of Atlanta, website, Archdiocese of Atlanta Catholic School students received $9 million in financial aid during the 2021-2022 school year. 

The school voucher legislation awaits the signature of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who had voiced his support.