The Georgia House approved a bill Tuesday that would increase the amount of money that could go toward Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program. Right now, Georgians who donate to Student Scholarship Organizations, or SSOs, get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit.
Individuals can donate up to $1,000, and there’s a $2,500 limit for couples. The maximum donation for corporations is $10,000. The SSO scholarships are used to send students enrolled in public schools to private ones.
House Bill 217 would increase the cap on donations from $58 million a year to $100 million. The bill has some bi-partisan support from lawmakers who say it gives choices to parents who otherwise might not have them. Rep. Valencia Stovall, D-Forest Park, said she wished her kids would have had such an opportunity.
“If I could have increased the odds in a better, quality education than what was received for both my children, my niece and nephews, how much further would they be now?” she said.
Critics say the measure would divert much-needed money from public schools.
"To increase the amount of Georgia's qualified education tax credit, and take those public dollars and the support from our public school system is troubling to me,” said Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City.
Buckner said the program lacks transparency. Unlike states with similar incentives, Georgia doesn't track the progress of students who receive the scholarships.
"I've not seen any benefit that we are seeing a better education coming from these schools, and if we're going to give a tax credit, I think we need a 'Return on Investments' type report,” she said.
Buckner is one of many critics who say the state shouldn't spend public money on private schools. A lawsuit involving that issue is currently before the state Supreme Court.
The bill will soon head to the Senate for consideration.