Morris News Service
ATLANTA — Georgians, by a wide margin, support tax credits and scholarships for private-school tuition, according to a university survey released Thursday by a foundation that advocates school choice.
The Economics of Education Policy Center at Georgia College & State University sponsored the poll that showed 81 of those questioned agree with state law that grants partial, tax-funded, tuition vouchers to the parents of handicapped students who prefer to send their children to private schools. A smaller group, 70 percent, approve of the state’s tax credit for donors who contribute to scholarships for able-bodied students who attend private schools.
On the question of whether the tax-credit scholarships should be limited to low-income families, only 28 percent agreed while 69 percent said they should be available to parents in any income range.
The results were released during a conference hosted by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation which advocates for greater choice for parents. It supports doubling the $58 million in tax credits available for the scholarship donations, and the results showed 62 percent of those surveyed agree while 29 percent oppose.
The survey also included a question about support for tax-sheltered savings accounts for school or college tuition like those in Florida and Arizona similar to health-savings accounts. In the poll, 68 percent agreed.
“This survey reinforces Georgia voters’ overwhelming approval of the 2012 referendum to establish a state charter school commission,” said Ben Scafidi, director of university center that sponsored the survey. “More important, the results of this survey make it clear that school choice in Georgia knows no political affiliation: Most Georgia parents simply want to give their children the best start possible.”
However, the poll did show that Republicans are more supportive of the scholarship tax credits than Democrats by 72 to 67 percent.
The results aren’t necessarily surprising to one group opposed to the vouchers and the tax credits, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, according to its spokesman Tim Callahan. He said Americans naturally prefer having lots of choices and may not appreciate the policy implications.
“Most people do not clearly understand the mechanics of the scholarship programs which use public tax dollars nor do they have the complete picture as to how these organizations operate,” he said.
PAGE and most other educator groups oppose the programs because they argue each robs resources from public schools.
The survey was conducted in May by New Jersey-based Braun Research among 1,000 adults and has a 3 percent margin of error. Participants” annual incomes ranged from 29 percent earning less than $40,000, 43 percent earning $40,000-100,000 and 14 percent making more than $100,000 while another 14 percent declined to answer. One-third had some college, and 41 percent had a college degree.