AUGUSTA, Ga. – A universal tuition tax credit program was signed into law in Georgia, granting parents access to $50 million in scholarships to send their children to private schools, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The program allows individuals and businesses to donate some of their state tax liability to organizations offering private school scholarships for students in grades K-12. Businesses can donate up to 75 percent of their state tax liability; individuals can donate up to $1,000, while couples can donate up to $2,500 of their state taxes, the Chronicle reported.

"We have to realize the public education system in Georgia is failing our children," State Rep. David Casas, the bill's sponsor and a Cobb County public school teacher, told the Chronicle. "I truly believe the way to fix ailing public education is school choice."

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a state teachers union, opposes the new law.

"It would be of great benefit for our state -- now and for its future -- if our lawmakers spent as much time and employed as much creativity adequately funding our K-12 public schools attended daily by 1.6 million students as they do trying their best to create an alternative system of publicly financed private school education for a few thousand students across the state," PAGE spokesman Tim Callahan wrote in an e-mail, according to the Chronicle. "Yes, we find it ironic in the extreme that (Mr. Casas) makes his livelihood from an institution he apparently has little faith in and works hard to erode."

Supporters of tuition tax credit programs argue that private schools are more efficient and more effective.

"Private schools are nine times more likely to outperform their public counterparts than vice versa, and private schools operating in genuinely free education markets enjoy an even greater margin of superiority over government-run schools," Andrew Coulson, Director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute told the Chronicle.

Others note that the purpose of the legislation is to empower parents, by granting them as many options as possible with respect to how to educate their children.

"It's not that a tax credit is anti-public school, rather it's a pro-parent program," Gerard Robinson, president of Black Alliance for Educational Options, said in an address to the General Assembly before the bill was voted on, according to the Chronicle.

SOURCE:
Augusta Chronicle, "Private school option controversial," May 18, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education," Nov. 13, 1997



MACKINAC CENTER ANALYSIS:
The Mackinac Center study "The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education," grants a 76-page explanation of and argument for the implementation of tuition tax credits. The study states that, “Choice is the engine for a market economy in all goods and services. The foundation of basic economic theory is the ability of individual consumers to choose one good over another based on their own preferences. Parents prefer good schools over poor schools for their children. Assigning children to schools based on where students live deprives parents of the freedom to apply their own values and priorities to selecting a school, and it deprives schools of valuable marketplace incentives that drive continuous quality improvement.” Georgia has paved the way for other states, like Michigan, to give the power of education back to parents and improve education across the board.

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