It’s hard to figure what must be going through Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s, R-Powder Springs, mind when he proposed HB 140. Actually it’s not difficult to see Ehrhart’s intention is to give a bigger tax break to parents who choose to send their children to private school. The tax break parents presently receive is capped at $50 million, but Ehrhart’s bill would increase that by $30 million and the cap could increase over time but never decrease.
Ehrhart also opens up he state’s wallet wider. Instead of limiting the tax break to $1,000 for an individual and $2,500 for married couples, Ehrhart has suggested that an individual could write off as much as 75 percent of their Georgia tax liability and the requirement for the impacted students to attend public school first has been dropped.
These ideas would be more palatable if the state had fully funded its own QBE formula, but alas, it’s underfunded by $1 billion. The Department of Education is facing more cuts in the governor’s budget. According to Margaret Ciccarelli, PAGE director of Legislative Affairs, these cuts are in retaliation for Superintendent John Barge’s opposition of the Republican-sponsored charter school amendment.
These efforts are just thinly-veiled attempts to allow private school parents to see a return on investment paid for by the state’s taxpayers. It’s a voucher program, but all children in the state aren’t eligible, just those attending private schools.
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The state constitution requires the state to provide funds for a public education system. It does not require the same for private schools. It’s absurd to increase the tax break for private school parents while cutting the state’s public education budget.