Friday, August 28, 2009

Up Close with Vouchers

As some of you know, my oldest son started kindergarten a couple of weeks ago. with this, there have been a lot of information sessions at church about activities related to his class, to the school, and to being involved in the parish more heavily as parents as well as parishioners.

One of the more interesting meetings, which I attended on Tuesday night, was a meeting to learn more about something called the GRACE Scholars Program. In 2008, Georgia passed a law allowing the diversion of tax dollars which would have gone to general purpose activities to specific Student Scholarship Organizations such as Grace Scholars. There have been about 15-20 of these specialized groups set up, and GRACE Scholars is directed at students who are attending and entering Catholic institutions.

It was an interesting presentation. It highlighted how it would help the church with general operations (by freeing up funds for other needs thanks to replacement funds arriving). It highlighted how students would benefit, as more students without the means to pay for Catholic school would be able to attend thanks to such donations.

Lastly (and most importantly for us), it highlighted how donors to the program would benefit, as all contributions made would qualify as charitable contributions. Since these SSO's are set up as non-profit organizations, any contribution to them can be included in itemized deductions on your tax return, thus decreasing your overall tax liability. Furthermore, once the forms are filed with the Department of Revenue, the amount of tax you wish to be redirected away from general coffers will be directed to programs you may care much more about, especially if one of your kids is attending such a school.

It was a very interesting presentation. Georgia is currently one of only a few states which has passed laws that authorize vouchers and a version of school choice available to families who would otherwise not have the resources. Georgia has set aside $50,000,000 of its expected tax revenue to be allotted to these sorts of programs, so hopefully there will be a lot of people who take advantage of this option.

We had about 60-70 people at the presentation Tuesday night, and there were a lot of questions, but it was very well received. Hopefully it means more of a benefit to taxpayers and to parishioners, while also enabling better access to such forms of education for those who may not otherwise be able to access it or afford it.

For me, it's one more reason to be glad to live in Georgia instead of back in the north - even if school starts about three weeks earlier here.

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