by Nyamekye Daniel
Georgia’s school choice programs saved taxpayers at least $605 million in fiscal year 2018, an updated analysis by EdChoice found.
EdChoice examined the fiscal effects of 40 private educational choice programs in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The nonprofit found the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program and the Georgia Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit saved taxpayers between $605 million and $1.1 billion in fiscal 2018.
Each taxpayer saved money on the sum they would have paid in taxes for each student enrolled in the program to attend public schools. The programs saved each taxpayer between $4,355 to $8,013 per student, according to the report.
Georgia Center for Opportunity Vice President of Public Policy Buzz Brockway said the report dispels some misconceptions about school-choice programs.
“There is a falsehood out there that if we expand access to different educational options for Georgia families, we’ll end up hurting traditional public schools,” Brockway said. “Data like this from EdChoice clearly show this isn’t the case.”
The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship program offers scholarships for students with individualized education plans to attend a private school or a public school of their choice. A new law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in May expanded the program to include students with certain disorders on 504 plans and children who are adopted, in foster care, or from a military family based in Georgia.
A 504 plan provides students with extra time for assessments, breakout instruction or modified assignments, among other things. The expansion allows more children to enroll in the program.
The education tax credit program allows taxpayers to redirect some of their state income tax to nonprofit student scholarship organizations for K-12 students to attend a private school of their parent’s choice in exchange for a tax credit.
The total cost of public schools per pupil for students with special needs in Georgia was $20,699 in fiscal year 2018. The average Georgia Special Needs Scholarship voucher was $6,223. The average Qualified Education Expense tax credit was $3,807, while the per-pupil cost in fiscal year 2018 was about $12,109.
A recent survey from National School Choice Week found more than half (52%) of parents surveyed said they have considered choosing a new or different school for their children in the past year. Georgia school choice voucher critics, however, said the programs redirect public school funding to private schools.
Brockway said the state could support both traditional public schools and education options for students.
“In fact, if our goal is to do what’s best for students and families, then we must do both: Have properly funded and supported traditional public schools while providing options for families who need a different environment for their children to best thrive,” Brockway said.
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Nyamekye Daniel is a reporter at The Center Square. She has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel’s work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.