School choice in the Peach State

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

crim­i­nate on re­li­gion — many stu­dents who at­tend those schools are not Catholic, he said.

In In­di­ana, one of those re­li­gious schools that re­ceives public fund­ing de­spite openly dis­crim­i­nat­ing against LGBT stu­dents is Light­house Chris­tian Academy in Bloom­ing­ton. In its ap­pli­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion, Light­house re­quires par­ents to con­firm their fam­i­lies abide by the school’s “Bib­li­cal Life­style State­ment,” which pro­hibits stu­dents and their fam­i­lies en­gage in “het­ero­sex­ual ac­tiv­ity out­side of a one man-one-woman mar­riage,” “ho­mo­sex­ual or bi­sex­ual ac­tiv­ity or any form of sex­ual im­moral­ity,” “prac­tic­ing al­ter­nate gen­der iden­tity or any other iden­tity or be­hav­ior that vi­o­lates God’s or­dained dis­tinc­tions be­tween the two sexes, male and fe­male,” along with view­ing pornog­ra­phy, drink­ing, curs­ing and steal­ing.

In the Con­gres­sional hear­ing ref­er­enced in the In­side Higher Ed story, Rep. Kather­ine Clark (D-Massachusetts) chal­lenged DeVos’ pro­posed $250 mil­lion in­crease in school voucher funds, ask­ing the sec­re­tary if she’d stand up to make sure Light­house would be open to all stu­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Blade, DeVos dodged the ques­tion. Rep. Kather­ine Clark (D-Massachusetts) (Photo via Face­book)

At­tempts to reach the US De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on DeVos’ stance on school vouch­ers and dis­crim­i­na­tion were un­suc­cess­ful as of press time.

Right now, Ge­or­gia has two school choice-re­lated pro­grams. The Qual­i­fied Ex­pense Ed­u­ca­tion Tax Credit and the Spe­cial Needs Schol­ar­ship Pro­gram were both cre­ated through leg­is­la­tion dur­ing the 2007 to 2008 leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

“The fund­ing for schol­ar­ships for the Ge­or­gia tax credit pro­gram is pro­vided by pre-ap­proved dona­tions from Ge­or­gia tax­pay­ers,” said Meghan Frick, spokes­woman for Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

These dona­tions are made to stu­dent schol­ar­ship or­ga­ni­za­tions, and the tax­payer re­ceives a credit on her in­come tax. The schol­ar­ships are pro­vided to par­ents of el­i­gi­ble chil­dren who plan to at­tend pri­vate schools.

The Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Rev­enue pre-ap­proves Ge­or­gians who wish to do­nate to the tax credit pro­gram, and there is a do­na­tion cap. Ac­cord­ing to the Ge­or­gia Stu­dent Schol­ar­ship Or­ga­ni­za­tion, in 2013 that cap was $58 mil­lion. Mar­ried cou­ples fil­ing jointly could do­nate up to $2,500; mar­ried in­di­vid­u­als fil­ing singly could give up to $1,250; un­mar­ried peo­ple could do­nate up to $1,000; and select cor­po­ra­tions up to $10,000 un­til that cap was reached.

On the other hand, the Spe­cial Needs Schol­ar­ship Pro­gram is a school choice pro­gram.

“If a stu­dent meets the eli­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for the pro­gram, a par­ent or guardian has the right to re­quest a trans­fer from a stu­dent’s cur­rent public school to another public school within their district of res­i­dence; another public school district out­side their district of res­i­dence; one of the three state schools for the blind or deaf; or a pri­vate school au­tho­rized to par­tic­i­pate in the Spe­cial Needs Schol­ar­ship Pro­gram,” Frick said.

This pro­gram does use public fund­ing “to pay for tu­ition and fees” at pri­vate schools au­tho­rized by the state De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

If Ge­or­gia were to move for­ward with an In­di­ana-style voucher sys­tem, it would re­quire a change in state law, not De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion policy, Frick said.

Right now, Pride School does not qual­ify for ei­ther of the Ge­or­gia school choice-re­lated pro­grams. It is funded en­tirely from dona­tions and tu­ition dol­lars, none of which come from tax­payer cof­fers, Zsilavetz said.

Even if Pride School were cov­ered by an In­di­ana-style school voucher pro­gram, there are still two ma­jor bar­ri­ers for ap­pli­cants: trans­porta­tion and tu­ition. Most vouch­ers don’t cover the full cost of tu­ition, which can be pricey depend­ing on the pri­vate school.

“Your av­er­age pri­vate school in Ge­or­gia is typ­i­cally any­where from $14,000 up. We’re on the low end be­cause we’re new and we’re small, so we don’t have as much need, and we rent space for $1,000 a month. We min­i­mize our ex­penses as much as pos­si­ble,” Zsilavetz said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.