Georgia’s law giving tax breaks to people who donate to nonprofits designed to pay for poor children to attend private K-12 schools is a “failed experiment,” a study released last week concludes.
The study by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation shows there have been multiple violations of the state’s “student scholarship organization” law because it doesn’t require the reporting of information on the students receiving scholarships or the private schools they attend. In some cases, students benefiting from the scholarships never attended public schools or were attending private schools that did not meet the law’s accreditation requirements, the study says.
Supporters of the program say the funds given to the students are private donations and should not be subject to the same transparency rules as state dollars.
The study gives examples of private schools in Barrow, Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee, Forsyth, Fulton, Glynn, and Lowndes counties instructing parents on how to enroll in public schools so their children can qualify for the private school scholarships.
Georgia residents can get up to $2,500 in tax breaks annually for donating to a tuition-scholarship organization. The study finds that $72.1 million in tax breaks were handed out in the program’s first three years, exceeding the law’s $50 million cap.
This year, state lawmakers passed a law requiring all student-scholarship organizations to report on the number and values of the tax credits and scholarships they issue.
A version of this article appeared in the June 15, 2011 edition of Education Week as Report Criticizes Ga. Tuition Tax Credits