A key problem with the debate about K-12 education in America is the absolute inability of public school defenders to find any merit in providing financially struggling parents with more options for educating their children. This attitude was reflected in staff writer Lauren Jones’ recent article “House Bill 140 would boost education tax credits.”
As the Board Chairman of Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, Inc., Georgia’s largest student scholarship organization, I appreciate having the opportunity to set the record straight.
First, Ms. Jones’ article failed to quote any parents from the approximately 10,000 families across Georgia to whom student scholarships have been awarded. Surely, those quotes have as much, even more, relevance to the debate than the extensive ones offered in the article from a single school choice opponent who is the “research coordinator” for a group of “parents, students and educators” dedicated to spending even more taxpayer money on public schools.
Instead of pouring money into the government-run education system, we should celebrate the fact that, in exchange for a state income tax credit, private individuals and corporations are contributing their hard-earned money to SS0s that, by awarding K-12 scholarships to deserving families, are forcing public schools, to actually compete for their customers.
In fact, because the average GOAL scholarship awarded is $3,800 and the average amount the state spends on educating a child in a local public school s approximately $4,700, each scholarship awarded by GOAL saves the state $900. Plus, even though a scholarship recipient leaves the public school system, the local school system still receives the same revenue generated by the local property taxes.
Of course, unlike as written in the article, this is not a “diversion” of money from the state. As the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2011, these contributions are like any other charitable contributions for which the state provides relief from taxation.
Since 2008, when the Georgia Education Expense Credit program was enacted, at least 25,000 taxpayers have contributed to SSOs, thereby providing low and middle income parents with a “helping hand” in securing a better education for their children. Perhaps this is what scares the defenders of the status quo in public education-which thousands of Georgians realize that it is unfair to deny children access to the educational choices that best suit their needs.
HB 140 would increase the annual cap on available education expense credits. I encourage our state legislators to raise the cap and improve SSO transparency, but without increasing government regulation over the independent schools participating in the program.