A tax credit scheme in Georgia is transforming state money into private school scholarships. As many as one-third of the schools that are beneficiaries have explicit anti-LGBT policies.
For example, the official policy at Cherokee Christian School, in Woodstock, Ga., states “That any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, or attempt to
alter one’s gender is a sinful perversion of God’s gift of human
sexuality.” The New York Times cited a statement of policy including; “Homosexual behavior, whether an ‘immoral act’ or ‘identifying statement,’ is incompatible with enrollment at Cherokee Christian Schools and is a basis for dismissal.” That statement has been removed from the school’s website.
More than 115 schools in Georgia have policies that “severely” discriminate against LGBT students, according to a report issued this month by the Southern Education Foundation. Because public information about the scholarship program is limited by law, the actual number is probably much higher.
Moreover, according to the report:
This program of educational tax credits is providing public financing to a large number of
private schools in Georgia that have draconian anti‐gay policies and practices. Many of
these private schools explicitly condemn homosexuality on religious grounds and have
procedures in considering student admission, scholarships, and discipline that identify
and exclude gay students. The schools’ policies often state that being gay or declaring
oneself as gay constitutes grounds for suspension or expulsion. Some of Georgia’s
private schools also have policies that suspend or expel any student who expresses
direct or indirect support or tolerance of gay students or homosexuality.
The scholarships appear to be an end-run around vouchers. They allow individuals and corporations to receive state tax
credits for thousands of dollars in donations to nonprofit groups that,
in turn, give the money to private schools. Furthermore, this program seems to have been specifically designed as a means of diverting public dollars into private schools that do not uphold the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
According to Claudia Hunt, who runs admissions for the
Providence Christian Academy, a kindergarten-through-12th-grade school
You can be a Jewish school. You can be a Muslim school. It’s the same
as a Catholic school or if I wanted to go to an all-girls school or a
homosexual school. That is why we are independent schools … We all have different missions.
It is estimated that $170 million in public money has been used (by virtue of tax credits) over the past four years to fund these scholarships; many of which go to schools that require church attendance and prayer.