In a recent article addressing school choice alternatives – particularly the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship program and its $58 million annual cap – some integral details regarding the execution of various school choice alternatives were somewhat blended together. We thought we’d take a minute to unpack some details about school choice and public funding of education.
First, the Tuition Tax Credit program is not a voucher program; rather, it simply allows individuals and corporations to donate money to Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO’s) that award scholarships to kids to attend private schools. A large number of these kids come from poorer families. Individuals or corporations contributing to SSO’s are eligible to receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits against their Georgia income tax liability for that year.
Second, those scholarships can only be used for private schools, not for homeschooling and not for charter schools. In fact, charter schools ARE public schools. So for what it’s worth, when a child leaves a traditional public school in order to attend a charter school, by definition, all the money being used to educate that child is still being spent by a public school.
Finally, it’s important to know that when a child leaves a traditional public school, the school no longer has the financial burden associated with educating that child. Additionally, the child rarely takes all of the money with him/her; a portion of the money – how much depends upon the program – stays at the original school. Typically, the amount the school keeps is not greater than the amount that is lost, but it hardly matters because they are keeping some portion of the money designated to educate a child who is no longer there. That means that on a “per pupil” basis, the school does have more money after a child leaves to take advantage of one of the state’s school choice programs.
Given the span of time in which the tax credit cap was met, it is apparent that Georgians are eager to exercise choice when it comes to seeking the best educational options for their children. As previously discussed, this high demand is no surprise but there are still many Georgia students in need of the opportunities presented by programs like the tax credit scholarship.