Parents sue Georgia over private school scholarship program

A controversial state program that offers tax credits to people who fund private school scholarships is unconstitutional and robs public schools of much-needed financial support, a lawsuit filed by Georgia parents Thursday argues.

The group, backed by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, says the student scholarship tax credits violate both the state constitution and tax laws by, among other things, providing indirect public funding to religious schools, giving donors illegal benefits and allowing a publicly funded school program to be run by private groups.

Steve Suitts, vice president of the foundation, said since the program was started in 2008, more than $280 million has been “diverted” to an “unregulated system of support for private schools” with no oversight from the state Department of Education.

The programs allow Georgians to obtain $58 million a year worth of income tax credits for donating to scholarship organizations. Those organizations, in turn, provide scholarships for students to attend private schools. More than 13,000 scholarships were given in 2012 as part of the program.

The private scholarship effort has both passionate supporters and equally passionate critics. Backers say it is an important step toward giving parents greater choice in where their children attend school. Opponents say it provides a boost to private, often religion-affiliated schools while draining money from a public education system that has been battered by billions of dollars in state funding cuts.

By James Salzer
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


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One response to “Parents sue Georgia over private school scholarship program

  1. It seems the plaintiffs in this suit may be poised to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater – except in this case, the “baby” is actually thousands of Georgia students who have been provided access to better educational opportunities than their zip code would have otherwise afforded them.

    While Georgia’s Tax Credit Scholarship system may not be perfect, it is in fact providing over 13,000 Georgia students a level of academic success and opportunity to which they would otherwise never have access. Furthermore, many have been working to address the imperfections in the program over previous years in hopes of seeing this viable and effective school choice alternative not only better serve students, but also expand to serve more students.