Agudath Israel of America welcomes the unanimous ruling today by the Georgia Supreme Court, upholding the state’s longstanding scholarship tax credit program.
Enacted in 2008, Georgia’s Education Tax Credit Program provides $58 million in tax credits for donors who contribute to scholarship organizations. The funds are then distributed to the more than 13,000 students participating in the program, including many students attending Jewish day schools across Georgia. Together with a coalition of state and national organizations, Agudath Israel and its Georgia constituents played a key role in the advocacy efforts to create and then expand the scholarship tax credit program.
In a 22-page decision, the justices agreed with a lower court decision which ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring a claim against the tax credit program. The Court said that not only were the taxpayers not necessarily damaged by the program, “a tax credit that funds a program that encourages attendance at private schools might, in fact, create a tax savings by relieving public schools of the burden of educating the students who chose to attend private schools.”
One of the plaintiffs’ claims was based on Georgia’s “Blaine Amendment,” which prohibits state funds from being used in support of religious institutions. That language is nearly identical to that of Missouri’s which was the subject of the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer case decided by the U. S. Supreme Court earlier today in favor of a religious preschool that was denied a state grant to resurface its playground.
“Coming on the heels of the U. S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, today’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court is a victory for Georgia parents who want to send their children to the school of their choice, including a religious school,” said Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel of America’s national director of state relations.