Private school tax credit: A $170 million tax diversion that Georgia lawmakers cloak in secrecy. Why?

State Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, met with the AJC Friday for a general discussion on education issues in the state.

By design, it is impossible to know how the $170 million in private school tax credit has been spent or on whom (AJC file photo)

By design, it is impossible to know how the $170 million in private school tax credits have been spent or on whom. (AJC file photo)

Among his concerns: Whether the private school scholarship tax credit is working as it was presented to the General Assembly  — as a means to help low-income kids whose parents had no other way to afford private schools.

“I want us to make sure the money is going to the kids I have envisioned so they can have better choices,” he said. Lindsey said he disagrees with state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, who recently said the scholarship “was never sold” as a program to benefit only low-income students.

“Rep. Ehrhart and I don’t always agree,” said Lindsey.

The AJC has done several good stories on the tax credit and the challenges — deliberately injected into the law –  in figuring out how the money was being spent and on whom.

And the money is considerable. Since 2008, more than $170 million has been set aside for tax credits that could be claimed by donors to student scholarship organizations. Now Ehrhart wants to expand the program.

Education advocate and Atlanta attorney Carolyn Wood sent me a dissection of the tax credit and why expansion is not in the best interest of taxpayers. I thought it was worth sharing:

By Carolyn Wood

Georgia’s tax credit scholarships for private schools were established with the passage of House Bill 1133 in 2008 which allows individuals and corporations to make donations to Student Scholarship Organizations (“SSO”) and receive a dollar-for-dollar Georgia income tax credit for these donations.

The stated rationale for this program was to fund scholarships which would help low income parents transfer their children from low-performing public schools to private schools in the hope of obtaining a better education. Now, the law allows $51.5 million in such tax credits to be claimed per year. Since 2008, more than $170 million in Georgia tax dollars has been set aside pursuant to this program.

A bill under consideration in the Legislature, House Bill 140, would increase the annual cap to $80 million. This program raises many questions.

1: How many recipients of scholarships actually attended a public school the year prior to receiving an SSO scholarship?

We don’t know. The current law does not require the students to actually ever attend a public school prior to receiving a scholarship. It only requires them to be “enrolled.” This has allowed students who currently attend private schools and those who never intend to attend public school to ”enroll” (register) without ever actually attending a public school, solely to receive a private school scholarship.

HB 140 would even enlarge this pool of students by dropping the requirement of “enrolling.” Under the proposed legislation, all students “eligible to enroll” in a public school can be recipients of the scholarships. Thus, all private school students are eligible. This hardly solves the problem of providing a better education for students in low-achieving public schools, or of moving the cost of public school students off Georgia’s rolls.

2: What percentage of scholarship recipients would qualify for free or reduced price lunches in public schools?

We have no idea. The initial idea behind this program was to help low-income students escape low-achieving schools. But unlike other states’ programs, the Georgia tax credit scholarship program does not include any provisions for means-testing the scholarship recipients. Because this law does not require any accountability, there is no way to determine how many, if any, Title I students are benefiting from the program. Without accountability, no one will ever know if the program is succeeding, or if the funds are actually benefiting other, less needy students. In fact, Georgia has made it a criminal offense to publicly disclose specific information submitted by SSOs to the Department of Revenue.

3: What percentage of their total scholarship revenue are the various SSOs actually providing as scholarships each year?

Again, no one knows. The law requires SSOs to distribute at least 67.5 percent of each year’s credits for scholarships. Because the law provides no accountability, in order to determine compliance with this requirement the only data available is gleaned (laboriously) from the individual SSOs’ IRS 990s. This data indicates that the SSOs raising much of the diverted funds have failed to meet the statutory requirement of distribution.

4: How can taxpayers be assured that these tax credits aren’t supporting “failing” private schools?

They can’t. The tax credit program in Georgia does not include a requirement that qualified private schools administer or make arrangements to allow scholarship recipients between grades 3 and 10 to take an approved standardized test. Because private schools don’t routinely take such standardized tests, the state has no way of assuring that the tax credits aren’t going to “failing” private schools.

5: By providing scholarships to schools that are overwhelmingly attended by white students, is the state encouraging racial segregation?

Yes. The Georgia private schools that are eligible for tax-credit scholarships are significantly more segregated by race and ethnicity than the state’s public schools. Approximately half of the state’s private school students attended schools that are “virtually” segregated – where one race or another constituted between 90 to 100 percent of the school’s student population in the 2007-08 school year. While there is hardly any data on how SSO scholarships are being awarded, it appears that the tax credit scholarships have done little more than provide support for white students to attend schools that are already racially isolated.

HB 140 would commit an additional $30 million annually from the state treasury to fund private school scholarships.  No one, including legislators and taxpayers, will know which schools receive scholarship monies, which students receive scholarships, what curriculum is being taught, how well the scholarship students perform academically, how wealthy the parents of scholarship recipients are, or how much of the $30 million is actually used for scholarships and how much is used for administration by the student scholarship organizations.

In short, there will be no accounting for how the $30 million annually will be used—or the results of its investment.

If $30 million in additional funding can actually be found for K-12 education in the extremely tight FY 2014 budget, there are probably hundreds of ways it could be better spent than for the unaudited, unregulated scholarship fund. Here are just 10 suggestions for using any “extra” education funds.

•Funding to allow every pre-k applicant to attend a pre-k program ($35 million to clear the wait list of 8,000 applicants).
•Funding for additional safety equipment (metal detectors, cameras, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.) for all public schools.
•Funding to allow every public school to provide every student with a full 180-day school calendar
•Funding to provide additional technology in schools where it is lacking.
•Funding to provide teachers with needed professional development regarding the uses of technology and the state’s new curriculum, as well as other high-quality professional learning programs.
•Increasing the number of school counselors (recommendation of the state’s Education Finance Study Commission).
•Restoring all of the state funds that have been cut since 2009 to the 29 districts with the lowest per-pupil spending in fiscal year 2012.
•Beginning to reduce class size back to pre-recession levels.
•Providing a nurse for every school.
•Providing a graduation coach for every high school.

During a time of diminishing state revenues, a growing population, and increasing expenses, it is not good public policy to divert taxpayer money to fund a program that has virtually no accountability, shows no evidence of improving the quality of education for any students (especially ones of limited economic means), decreases funding for already underfunded public schools, supports religious institutions in violation of the state constitution, and fosters discrimination against a variety of ethnic and demographic groups.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

104 comments Add your comment

Robert

February 17th, 2013
7:49 pm

This whole idea is just socialist, government meddling in the private sector. If your child can’t afford to go to a school that teaches creationism and that the Earth is just 6,000 years old, tough.

Wilbur

February 17th, 2013
7:55 pm

You can always count on the AJC blog comments for relevant, hate free and well informed thought.

Fred ™

February 17th, 2013
8:07 pm

You tell them Robert. Those socialist Republicans haven’t gotten the message yet.

Oh and Larry? I hope you ARE bright enough to know thta not all private schools are church schools. SOme of them, like Woodward Academy, actually focus on learning. I know that’s a stretch for you, but it is what it is pal. Here educate yourself.

http://www.woodward.edu/

My goodness...

February 17th, 2013
8:23 pm

Wait, I thought the thesis of the comments by Ms. Wood is that we know nothing about the program. If that’s the case, how can she make the case that it is encouraging racial segregation. As someone who actually knows something about the program, it’s absolute hogwash. I encourage anyone who calls themselves a reporter to go talk to GOAL, Arete, GRACE Scholars and a few of the other scholarship organizations about their kids on scholarship.

And by the way, you show me and everyone else that reads this blog a non-segregated school in APS. It’s an offensive assertion based on ignorance. You opponents of choice do the same thing with charter schools and the fact is that there is not one study, not one report that shows that school choice initiatives encourage segregation.

Here’s a final idea, as someone who was a leader in advocating for this program and whose intent was truly wanted it designed as a program that was HOPE-like for low income kids: Stop demonizing the entire program and focus on cleaning it up and eliminating the likes of Pay-it-Forward SSO and GASSO. They are complete jokes that make a mockery out of the intent of the legislation. Luckily they don’t hold a candle to the number of kids that are truly helped by legitimate, ethical SSOs like GOAL, Arete, GRACE and a few others.

GNGS

February 17th, 2013
8:26 pm

As a parent with kids in an excellent public school system, I demand the same treatment from our state government to allow me to direct my tax to my public school system so it gets more funding and/or to allow low-income students from other systems to attend our public schools.

Home-tutoring parent

February 17th, 2013
8:28 pm

A tax-credit program is not entirely a bad thing, if one takes a normal tax bill, and rules that 10% of it can be given to a worthy recipient, leaving 90% of one’s tax liability standing, i.e. still payable to the government.

An argument can be made for reverting to a normal charitable tax-deduction, or even scholarship contributions generating no tax-taxable-income reduction. In the latter case, I would suggest not saddling recipients with gift tax levies.

On creationism and teaching that the earth is 6000 years old, some people are stupid on science, but it doesn’t mean they can’t teach good lessons like “The Golden Rule”, diligence, perseverance, kindness to others, et al. In the social sphere, Darwinism isn’t the answer.

mountain man

February 17th, 2013
8:30 pm

What bothers me is this is a CREDIT, not a DEDUCTION. So you basically get to choose what your tax dollars are spent for, up to a limit. Can we have such a credit for PRISONS? Or for regular EDUCATION? Or for any of other good causes? Why single out private schools for such largesse? Or just make them deductions and put them on a level playing field with all of the other causes. When you allow people to choose to send some of their taxes to private school scolarships, what has to be cut to make up for that missing money?

robert

February 17th, 2013
8:35 pm

As a parent of a student who attends a Montessori school and has sat through the pitch from the SSO representative and actually used the tax credit I can tell you it is with a wink and a nod that these tax credits are given to the children of the parents who apply for the tax credit. It is an underhanded deceptive maneuver by the legislature to not only move public funds to private schools but to then allow private schools to earmark those funds for specific students that have been enrolled in that private school. It is the worst kind of government program. It should be tarred and feathered and run out of town in disgrace.

Georgia Dad

February 17th, 2013
8:38 pm

The Floyd County School system just eliminated 119 employees. This is “a response to a decade of state cuts that total $50 million” This tax credit needs more accountability or it will become private school welfare.

Educator

February 17th, 2013
8:39 pm

Thanks for pointing out what crooked boondoggle this tax credit business really is. A handful of kids escape lousy schools. The rest of the money drains public coffers to support private schools that have no intention of admitting needy kids. This is bad legislation that needs to stop.

DEAinATL

February 17th, 2013
8:45 pm

“you show me and everyone else that reads this blog a non-segregated school in APS”
Where my kid went, Northside.
Tax dollars should never go to support schools which teach creationism.

Mom of 3

February 17th, 2013
8:47 pm

My kids attend a private school in Atlanta and I have seen this program work just as it was designed. We have had a lot of great minority kids start at our school because of this program. They have been wonderful additions to the school. Parents need options. I actually am surprised more parents in counties like Dekalb are not seeking these out. Parents need to advocate for their children instead of waiting for the government to see the light. This is all about choice. The parents who take the time to research their options are realizing that that they do have choices. You can not throw the baby out with the bath water over a one or two bad seeds.

Tell Me please

February 17th, 2013
8:47 pm

Let’s set up a hypothetical here…Let’s say John Smith is a 17 year old 9th grader attending a “failing” school. John has passed 3 classes in 2 years (because the school is “failing”). Mr. Smith (John’s dad) and Mrs. Jones (John’s mom in a second marriage and lives in another state) didn’t know anything about his low grades. (They ignored the numerous communication attempts from the school…teachers, counselors, AP). John has spent 10 days in ISS this year because of behavior issues (again, unresponsive parents). If only John’s parents could receive a tax credit and send him to XXXX private school, everything would be okay. John would graduate with honors, get a full ride scholarship to MIT and cure cancer. Dang those failing government schools! Let’s take money away from Cindy’s Title I school (exemplory or failing, it makes no difference..) and give it to XXXX. You know they need to pay the supplement for the swim team coach or they may lose state next year. Cindy doesn’t need that AP history class to keep her 4.3 GPA since she already has a 1920 SAT score from her school with 172 days of instruction.

Mary Elizabeth

February 17th, 2013
8:54 pm

Why cloaked in secrecy?

Can there be any doubt, at this point in time, that an underlying agenda of Georgia’s Republican dominated legislature is to enhance private education (as well as privately managed public charter schools) in Georgia at the expense of traditional public education? Furthermore, surely most citizens, at this point in time, recognize that this private school agenda is a national Republican one, via Republican dominated state legislatures, throughout the nation? Although Georgia’s public schools are not perfect, surely most of Georgia’s citizens still desire to sustain – and improve – Georgia’s public, not-for-profit schools, instead of desiring private schools to receive public tax dollars, with a long-ranged goal of dismantling public education for private education, en masse.

I have no issue with some disadvantaged students being allowed scholarship tax credits to improve their specific educational situations, but I do not want to see this program used as part of an overall movement in moving Georgia toward educational vouchers for all students, in order to turn public education to private education in this state. Inherent in doing that, and perhaps inherent in this scholarship tax credit program, itself, is a false assumption that all private schools are better than all public schools – and this is simply not true.

From the article above: “The tax credit program in Georgia does not include a requirement that qualified private schools administer or make arrangements to allow scholarship recipients between grades 3 and 10 to take an approved standardized test. Because private schools don’t routinely take such standardized tests, the state has no way of assuring that the tax credits aren’t going to ‘failing’ private schools.”

======================================================

In line with the long-ranged Republican plan to dismantle public schools in Georgia, as I have observed and believe to be true, is a parallel movement to cut the benefits of all state workers, including teachers and retired teachers. Below is the latest announcement that I have received from GAE regarding discontinuing the health insurance benefits for retired teachers (and other state workers) who are hired after July 1, 2013. I have previously written on this blog that I have heard from legitimate sources that Georgia’s Republican dominated legistature will be trying to undercut the Teacher Retirement System pension for future retirees. Look for that type of legislation in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead, and please speak out against this happening. Viable teacher benefits will insure a stronger commitment to the continuation of public schools in Georgia, instead of creating more and more private market schools, whereby teachers will have few state guaranteed benefits. If you see what is really going on, then you can see for yourselves why secrecy might be necessary.

Information below received from GAE:

“HB 263: Post-Employment Health Benefit

HB 263 – Post-Employment Health Benefit Fund, person eligible to participate on or after July 1, 2013, shall pay premium which reflects cost of coverage

Sponsors:(1) Martin, Chuck 49th(2) Riley, Lynne 50th(3) Neal, Jay 2nd (4) Harbin, Ben 122nd(5) Battles, Paul 15th(6) Duncan, Geoff 26th

Summary:This Bill changes the current eligibility statute of school and other state employees of the State Health Benefit Plan. The State would no longer contribute funds to the cost of the post-employment health insurance benefits for NEW State Employees.

If this legislation became law, it would take effect July 1, 2013. Only State Employees hired after that date would be affected. New state employees would no longer be eligible for post-employment state health insurance coverage paid-for by the State, those employees would have to pay the full cost of coverage upon retirement. This statue would not apply to current State Employees under the current make-up of the bill.

If a current State employee has a break in service, they would be responsible for health insurance premiums and would not fall under currently eligibility status.

Status: Bill Sent to Retirement Committee”

Georgia Dad

February 17th, 2013
8:54 pm

Well gee why don’t we close all the public schools and send the kids to private schools? Problem solved.

concernedmom30329

February 17th, 2013
8:57 pm

mom of three,

There are private schools that are respecting the premise of this program. They only give scholarships to students in need (by the way, it is presumptuous of you to assume that all the minority students at your child’s private school are there because of scholarships.) When the concerns were raised earlier this year, those schools informed their parents and alumni that they were following the spirit of the program, funds were given to only those in need.

There are many more schools that are just using the program to fill their school.

bootney farnsworth

February 17th, 2013
9:00 pm

it’s simple.
light of day means people get to look behind the curtain

Lee

February 17th, 2013
9:16 pm

Maybe I should renovate a historic house, put some solar panels on it, rent it out as Section 8 housing, provide catastrophic health care to my employees doing the renovation and make a movie out of it. I could then claim the Historic Renovation Tax Credit, the Clean Energy Tax Credit, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, the Health Insurance Tax Credit and the Ga Film Company Tax Credit. By the time I receive all those tax credits, I could pay off the beach condo.

Sweet.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg. There are federal tax credits, property tax exemptions, and sales tax exemptions as well.

It’s good to be a CPA.

I take a private school credit and send Junior to private school, which saves the state about four times the cost of the credit. Y’all need to find something else to complain about.

Like funding hundreds of millions for a new dome stadium and then tearing down the perfectly good existing stadium.

Georgia Dad

February 17th, 2013
9:22 pm

If you can afford to send your kid to private school then you can pay your fair share to the public schools. It’s called civic duty. Too many have forgotten. The wealthy used to send their kids to serve in the military too.

A Teacher, 2

February 17th, 2013
9:28 pm

Why do people still comment about one party or another as if either party is actually truthful??? Really, folks, both sides are corrupt, dishonest, and in it for themselves. Why are we continuing to allow this to happen? Why are we allowing elected officials to loot the tax-payers money at will? Why is anything like this done in secret? Why do we allow things like this to be done in secret? Where is the press? In many generations, much of the press would not rest until corrupt politicians were exposed. I challenge anyone to find as many as 5 laws that are passed in the General Assembly this year that do not directly give a pay off to someone somewhere.

So, citizens of Georgia, where is your tax money going? If this is such a good idea, be transparent, and let everyone see how it works. If vouchers are what is best for the state, so for it. Vote on it in the General Assembly. Go on record. Let everything see the light of day. If it is good and right, everything should be decided on the merits of of the program.

The very fact that those in charge see fit to shroud this program in secrecy probably tells us all we need to know.

Home-tutoring parent

February 17th, 2013
9:43 pm

Most of you don’t understand what is happening. What did happen long ago?, because the past determines the present. Hundreds of thousands of black kids were prohibited from being taught how to learn to read in the Antebellum South. A lot of them wanted to learn. Most “blacks” today have literate “white” slave masters’ genes.

SCOTUS has proved that 9 people cannot divine equality. Maybe 9 people could, if only 3 of them were lawyers, but 9 lawyers can’t, because lawyers aren’t that smart. Six SCOTUS members being scientists, medical doctors,and engineers might be smart enough, but lawyers are second-rate minds. Thus they generate second-rate results. Which isn’t bad, but they have no authority to lead everybody else. “I want to be led by second-rate minds.” Okay, you should. Some of you don’t get what Ben Carson says. Growing up with a black mamma, he’s way more inspirational than OBuzzmo.

Home-tutoring parent

February 17th, 2013
9:56 pm

One of the things that bothers me about modern evolutionary members of “normal schools” cum “teachers colleges” cum “state universities”.

It doesn’t matter to me that these institutions never got to run medical schools, law schools, dental schools, veterinary schools, nor dispense PhDs. But how cum they never generated 90% BA recipients among their “We’ll take you” freshman matriculants? Or even 50%?

Prof

February 17th, 2013
10:05 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth. About the time that you were posting here about the legislative changes being made to retirees’ healthcare benefits with HB 263, I was posting similar news on the preceding thread about Michael Thurmond. I discovered some additional info.

“The State Health Benefit Plan, not now available to USG employees … was technically insolvent as of 2010 (see http://www.mygrsa.com/shbp-changes for details). … House Bill 263 provides that retirees pay the entire premium for their “school personnel post-retirement health benefit fund,” which I would guess relates to SHBP. So far, HB 263 has passed the House 2nd Readers.”

I don’t know the politics here, but it sounds to me like the legislature is trying to be sure it doesn’t have to cover for a sinking (or sunk) SHBP. It should be noted that TRS has nothing to do with the SHBP.

Prof

February 17th, 2013
10:11 pm

Sorry. I keep getting that link wrong. It should be http://www.gsra.com/shbp-changes

Prof

February 17th, 2013
10:14 pm

Home-tutoring parent

February 17th, 2013
10:33 pm

Life is hard. I got snarfed in San Diego and Hawaiin waves. Forget to meet a babyspying-humpy in Alaska.

I mostly remember an offshore Loreto trip, when dolphins gave us (in a little rubber boat) a fantastic out of the water spin show. Fawk, they were pinwiling 10 feet away from us. I had previously dived to get a giant clam and lobster for Fijia islanders, and they put me into the mosquito-proof tent.

And a krait zoomed toward me but steered away.

Some of you people don’t believe in God. You’re really ignorant people.

Georgia Dad

February 17th, 2013
10:49 pm

Appears that Home-tutoring parent has shut down the comments on this blog with their incoherent ramblings. Intentional?

Atlanta Mom

February 17th, 2013
10:53 pm

I too would like to be able to direct my tax liability to the causes I deem worthy. Where do I sign up?

Ronin

February 17th, 2013
10:56 pm

As far as teacher health benefits after retiring (for employees hired after July 2013), if you retire before being Medicare eligible, you’ll then be required to pay your full health insurance premium under Obama Care.

This was going to happen eventually, it was just a matter of time. As far as the TRS, that’s going to change too. The state will remove itself from the retirement benefits business and these options will be handled either by the federal government or private, for profit, companies.

Home-tutoring parent

February 17th, 2013
11:01 pm

Some of you people are stupid. Just look at your “univerwsities”c Less than 50% matriculants graduating in 4 years, even 6 years. Most of your students taking high school English and mathematics courses. “College Algebra”, that’s actually high school algebra.

There was this girl who tried to glom onto my investments. “Did you take College Algebra”

‘Yes”.

Wrong answer. The right anwswer was. “I did that in high school, I started in college taking calculus.”

Anonymous in DeKalb

February 17th, 2013
11:09 pm

Will the other side in the private school tax credit debate be given equal time to present their case?

Dekalbite@Ronin

February 17th, 2013
11:20 pm

Well, the Republicans didn’t want Medicare to be the plan for everyone like the Canadian and European Health Care systems so this is what we got in the way of universal health care. A vial of insulin is $100 here in the U.S. The exact same vital is $25 in Europe and Canada. The privatized U.S. health care system is eating us alive. I’m for the free market economy, but when it’s bought with campaign donations (pharmaceuticals were Bush’s biggest campaign contributor) and rigged it can hardly be called a “free market”. Perhaps these federal and state “exchanges” will bring some much needed competition to the insurance market. Whatever – our health care costs are eating up too much of our GDP and are unsustainable. Medicine needs to be smarter and more efficient. Many aspects of Obamacare are tring to force this by penalizing hospitals for infection rates that are higher than normal, too lengthy hospital stays, and too many unnecessary tests. If you haven’t been in the hospital or had a serious health problem recently, you may not be aware of the unbelievable costs that get racked up with the inefficiency in our privatized health care system.

Young people will eventually like having insurance uncoupled from their employer. It will not be too expensive for them and it will be portable so they can take it with them without fearing if they or a dependent get sick or require a hospitalization they will be paying it off until they are middle aged. Hard for older folk though, particularly if Georgia just decides to cut their retired teachers loose. Typical of this legislature.

Sorry to get off topic with this thread. I know teachers nearing retirement are very worried about this. Teaching in Georgia is just getting less and less attractive. So how do we propose to attract and retain those great teachers? Be prepared for an exodus from teaching and then just like nursing the salaries will be higher to attract them back. This happened in nursing over a 30 year time frame and it’s going to happen in teaching.

Truth in Moderation

February 17th, 2013
11:22 pm

@ Fred Trademark:

What Georgia public school gives students a competitive edge for Georgia Tech or MIT?
It’s Gwinnett county’s GWINNETT SCHOOL OF MATH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (A county charter STEM school) Their average 2011 SAT score was 1914. Compare with the highest performing Metro Atlanta public schools:

*** Top 10 Metro Atlanta High Schools SAT scores (2011)

1. Northview High School (Fulton): 1751
2. Walton High School (Cobb): 1725
3. Chattahoochee High School (Fulton): 1694
4. Alpharetta High School (Fulton): 1679
5. Pope High School (Cobb): 1676
6. Milton High School (Fulton): 1659
7. Riverwood High School (Fulton): 1652
8. Roswell High School (Fulton): 1645
9. South Forsyth High School (Forsyth): 1640
10.Lassiter High School (Cobb): 1634

Read more: http://www.city-data.com/forum/atlanta/1382712-top-10-metro-atlanta-high-schools.html#ixzz1pLAlqeM4

According to the AJC:
“The state’s top performer, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, had an average score of 1914. The school of 707 students has a 100 percent college acceptance rate. The Class of 2011 was 39 percent Caucasian; 37.8 percent Asian; 12.6 African American and 7.2 percent Hispanic.”

“According to the College Board’s 2010 Group Profile Report: public schools had an average score of 1497 out of 2400 while the average score for independent schools was 1700. Religious-affiliated schools scored the highest at 1597.”

“If we admit a student we work hard as we can to help them succeed,” said Stuart Gulley, president of Woodward Academy, which has class sizes as small as 16 yet is the largest private school in the continental United States with more than 2,700 students. “Last year, we graduated 256 students and all 256 were admitted to four-year colleges around the world. We have one at Harvard, some at Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt and Emory. And our students tell us they were well-prepared.”
Woodward Academy’s averge SAT score: 1838.”
http://www.ajc.com/news/lifestyles/parents-shopping-for-choice-want-private-school-ad/nQqxN/

MadMama

February 17th, 2013
11:23 pm

Well, let me tell you what sending my daughter to a great public middle school in Conyers, GA got me…http://www.times-herald.com/Local/20130130mabry-conyersMAIN-MOS and http://www.rockdalenews.com/section/1/article/14113/ … I am a retired Dean of Graduate Studies and I taught 3rd grade in a Title I school. What happened to my child should have NEVER happened; and, even worse NO ONE in the school system has uttered so much as an I AM SORRY. BUT this scholarship is needed so that parents have OPTIONS. The school in my daughter’s case couldn’t and didn’t protect my daughter BUT a wonderful private school in the DID. If I could find a way to divert ALL of my county school taxes to this fund, I would.

yuzeyurbrane

February 17th, 2013
11:34 pm

I don’t often agree with Ed Lindsey but he is absolutely correct on this one. Congratulations for intellectual honesty.

A Teacher, 2

February 17th, 2013
11:36 pm

You are correct. There will be a mass exodus from teaching this year. The really great teachers are welcome in many fields. I personally am looking at multiple 6-figure offers, and I have turned in my notice. Why would I want to continue in teaching when multiple and conflicting laws and regulations make it impossible to succeed any more?? The cynics that populate this blog can continue to pontificate about getting rid of the legions of bad teachers and other assorted whiners. Guess what?? Instead, you are running off the great teachers!! In the words of Dr. Phil, “how is that workin’ for ya??”

Tony K.

February 18th, 2013
2:33 am

My son goes to an expensive private school that really pushes parents to sign up for GOAL. I did some research on this and even though this would cut my taxes, I refuse to participate. There are two huge problems with this program: 1) This is a shell game to give public tax dollars to private schools…there are no income requirements, only income ‘guidelines’, so somebody making $150K a year with no intention of sending their kid to a public school gets this so-called scholarship. 2) This is $170M program, and the SSO organizations are only required to put 67.5% towards scholarships. so that other 33% of the $170 comes to around $55M dollars. One of the SSOs has some REALLY nice offices in Vinings, and these companies seem to have an ARMY of lobbyists. Zero accountability for an organization that you give $170M to, and they get to keep $55 MILLION of your tax dollars with ZERO accountability. Like I said, I could take advantage of this program, but it is simply immoral and wrong, so I won’t do it. Part of me says ‘where can I sign up to be a SSO’ since I cannot think of a business opportunity where they give you millions of dollars and you get to keep 32.5% of the cash.

Private Citizen

February 18th, 2013
4:37 am

quoting robert, an underhanded deceptive maneuver

Seems to be what Georgia is made of in much of the governing sector. I wonder if companies would move here to do business if they knew the extent of it. It’s like these governing types invent something clever to prey upon and feed upon the people. They see the public in three sectors: the poor (screw them until the walk barefoot and have no heat), those who move here from out of state (screw them – damn yankees and foreigners, trick them and take everything they’ve got or brought with them) and then their own kind (and they’ll steal from most of them, too).

Georgia government is full of thieves and bandits. Truly, it is.

Private Citizen

February 18th, 2013
5:01 am

Pardon the language. Who watches the watchers? In Georgia, hardly anyone. A day ago, a senior person commented to me about the general lack of financial auditing of government activities in this state. We were in accord re: a high level of corruption, multiple leaderships to cover the same geographic area is something they mentioned. I guess a lot of people want to go into the business of governing in Georgia. That is their error. It has occurred to me with the lack of production, the outsourcing of manufacturing to outside the country, seems like now a lot of people are in the policing business. And there’s nobody truly regulating school districts. “SACS” may be the regulator but they go so light in many areas, and they do nothing for labor conditions for teachers and seeing that teachers can work without being harassed by administration or treated in a negative way as a formula. Make LKES is supposed to be doing this. Teachers need to fight back on so much crummy treatment from their own administrators. One way teachers are treated crummy is the high level of movement of staff. I’ve known sooo many principals who only work a couple of years in on location until the main office mixes it up again. It is like the “3 superintendents in DeKalb County,” this is an indicator of very poor or shallow regulation. If the state of Georgia did their own regulation instead of subcontracting it out to a multinational corporation posing as an “org” it might have better schools. And I wonder what are the executive salaries over there at “SACS.” Does anyone know? Are they being paid $100k/year or $500k+ ? This should be public information, yah?, since they are the sole entity doing regulation of public schools.

Betsy Parks

February 18th, 2013
5:32 am

I’m a move here from out of state and we (sigh) bought a home in DeKalb. One child who did graduate from DCSS was too many. We found promise and a solid education in private school that would have been available to ANYONE in Virginia at public school. I don’t claim to have the answers but I think “we” should begin to ask why GA Law does not require ANY accreditation for public schools to receive our tax dollars- its just nuts.
Virginia requires all schools to be accredited. Virginia does not hire a “nanny” to do the hard work at public schools that GA does not even bother to require at any her school houses. Virginia parents the school system herself and if that means correcting and closing failing school, she does it after a genuine, well thought out attempt at correcting the situation. If my memory serves me, only a few of her schools had to actually close its doors but failing schools had to change and improve.
This in my “comeyere” opinion is a REAL place to start if we want to REALLY EDUCATE all of our children to the best of the children. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/accreditation/index.shtml
I think the Grace Scholarship program ROCKS!

Lee

February 18th, 2013
7:28 am

“Education advocate and Atlanta attorney Carolyn Wood sent me a dissection of the tax credit and why expansion is not in the best interest of taxpayers.”

Oh, I don’t know.

It was in the best interest of the taxpayer who received the credit.

For every student who attends private school, the taxpayers do not have to expend the money they normally would have to provide the student a public school education, which is about four times the amount of credit.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

If minority kids were receiving most of these scholarships, the politically correct would be extolling the virtues of the credit. However, the big rub appears to be that white, middle class taxpayers get to retain some of their hard earned money instead of turning it over to the state to waste.

What exactly is an “education advocate” anyway?

Ronin

February 18th, 2013
7:39 am

@Dekalbite, my understanding is that it will be enacted over a period of time. Those nearing retirement would still be eligible (at this time) for state retirement health benefits. However, it’s possible that it could change more quickly than I anticipate.

As far as health care costs in the United States? A lot of the medical tests done by doctors are to CYA, due to the litigious nature of our society. If you want to bring down healthcare costs, enact tort reform and adopt a loser pays system. That’s never gonna happen given that the many of our representatives are attorneys and feed off of the system that is eventually going to bankrupt the country.

While an interesting topic, the private school tax credit is the least of our worries, compared to Medicare.

Whirled Peas

February 18th, 2013
7:43 am

Just one more income redistribution vote buying program. Dump it and let us keep more of what we earn.

TC

February 18th, 2013
7:46 am

All tax credits as opposed to deductions should be eliminated at the state and federal level.

teacher&mom

February 18th, 2013
8:03 am

No excuses. The state should be able to quickly and accurately answer every single question posed in the article.

George

February 18th, 2013
8:10 am

Poor Fred and the rest of you private school parents everything that is going on in public schools is going on in private schools sex,drugs,violence only it is kept quite. Woodward students brought back LSD – (drug ) on a field trip and about 25 students asses were all sent home.people get schooled learning begins at home.Spend all thhe money and die broke because most of them will not ain nothing from it.Yes Fred a lot of learning is taking place their including major drug use
and sex FRED gget schooled.

Dr No No

February 18th, 2013
8:22 am

The people who actually pay state income taxes have every right to a say in how that money is spent, and this program gives them that right. The poor and the stupid who pay no taxes just want the money diverted in their direction, I for one say “NO, NEVER.” It is time to end all government welfare programs, every single one, and re introduce debtor’s prisons!!! Let em break rocks at sub minimum wage until their debts are paid off.

dc

February 18th, 2013
8:33 am

we are in the process (awaiting approval) of giving $2,500 to a private school in Vine City that does an amazing job getting young children out of the local school and into a safe environment to learn. Without this credit they wouldn’t have the funding needed to provide this alternative.

But the important thing as always isn’t whether these children get a chance in life….but rather are the “evil rich people” doing something wrong!! Yeah, focusing on that will really help poor kids better their life.

dc

February 18th, 2013
8:37 am

and btw, my kids all go to public school…..but again, let’s focus on the “evil rich white people”… as usual, the AJC is focused on something that won’t help one single poor kid – but of course, the real issue is that tax money is being taken away from it’s “rightful owner” (the bureaucrats who run the schools) and given to people who might actually focus more on the kids than on the adults in the system.

old teach

February 18th, 2013
8:59 am

No matter how you slice it, it’s inexcusable that this public money is being diverted into a private black hole–with no discernable usage trail. It’s also inexcusable that some Legislators are asking for more funds to go down with it…