Education

Georgia Tax Credit Program Redirects Taxpayer Funds To Religious Schools, Suit Says

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Georgia’s tax credit program takes “funds away from Georgia’s public schools” and redirects it to private religious schools, according to a lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court.

Raymond Gaddy and three other co-plaintiffs say the program violates Georgia's Constitution and tax code.

The claim states that money is siphoning public school funds through scholarship organizations, which are not regulated by the state.

"Individual taxpayers in Georgia, as well as corporations, receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donations and contributions made to private Student Scholarship Organizations ('SSOs'). The SSOs then take the redirected tax funds and use them to provide scholarships for students to attend private schools," the suit says.

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"Absent the constitutionally required state administration, the SSOs and the private schools that receive their funds are free to do virtually as they please," the complaint states.

Gaddy’s children attend school in Chatham County. He says Georgia "enacted a scheme in which funds from the state's treasury are redirected to pay tuition at private schools in the state."

The suit claims that tax credits are prohibited if the taxpayer designates education expenses for the benefit of a particular student.

"In this regard, although supposedly intended to benefit underprivileged children, the SSOs and private schools receiving the funds can, and generally do, award scholarships to students who already can afford private schools," the complaint states. "Also, because the majority of private schools in the state are faith based, many enrollment decisions are conditioned on commitment to specific religious beliefs and practices."

The plaintiffs want the state enjoined from redirecting tax money and a declaration stating that the program violates Georgia's Constitution and tax code.

Sources: Courthouse News Service, Liberaland