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National Public Radio and The New York Times expand on findings in SEF’s 2011 report on Georgia's tax credit scholarships


Bookmark and Share In May, a front-page investigative story ran in The New York Times, uncovering a wide range of self-dealing and misuses in Georgia's state program permitting private school parents and supporters to divert state tax dollars for private school scholarships. This state program is the focus of a 2011 SEF report, A Failed Experiment: Georgia's Tax Credit Scholarships for Private Schools. pdf-icon.png The Times story, "Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools," images.jpg documents how private student scholarship organizations (SSOs) and private schools have been enticing parents and supporters to divert tax dollars from the state treasury to private schools to pay the private school tuition of their own children and other specific children whom the donors identify. In turn, parents and supporters have reduced their state and federal income taxes.

"As damaging as this story is to Georgia's reputation in education," observed Steve Suitts, SEF Vice President and author of the SEF report, "there are still other, untold issues about how this tax-funded program remains a failed experiment."
 
In a sweeping review of the tax credit program across the nation, the Times finds a wide range of abuses and problems in the way public funds in Georgia are being funneled to support private schools, including:
  • How Georgia's private schools are using state tax credits to finance current private school students' tuition costs while failing to target low income students in struggling public schools;
  • How Georgia's private schools have used tax-funded scholarships to recruit star football players to compete against public schools;
  • How Georgia's private schools use strict religious requirements to decide who to admit and make eligible for tax-funded scholarships;
  • How the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has helped to orchestrate the creation of the tax credit program in Georgia and other states.

In August, National Public Radio (NPR), reported on the issue in its story, Tax Credit Scholarships Reignite Voucher DebateNPR reported that even proponents of the program now agree that there is a severe lack of transparency.  Georgia lawmakers received a “Black Hole Award” from the national Society of Professional Journalists in April because the independent group found Georgia’s tax credit scholarship law to be the nation’s “most heinous violation of the public’s right to know.”

This highly secretive, unaccountable program has cost Georgia taxpayers approximately $170 million to date during a time when local and state governments have made significant cuts in funding for public schools, law enforcement, fire departments, and other essential services.

"These widespread problems will only get worse until Georgia's state leaders decide that enough is enough and put in place new legislation that ends or vastly mends Georgia's tax credit scholarship program," said Suitts.

For additional information, contact Katherine Dunn @404-991-6764 or kdunn@southerneducation.org.

More coverage of the issue is available at 11alive.com. safe_image.png






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