Georgia’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit, a tax-credit scholarship program, was enacted and launched in 2008 to help prior public school students access schools that best fit their needs. Learn more about the program’s details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.
Georgia offers tax credits to donors supporting Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships to students in need.
Scholarship amounts are determined by SSOs, capped only by the average state and local expenditures per child for public elementary and secondary education in the entire state. For 2018, scholarships are capped at $9,817.
All public school students are eligible if they attended a public school for at least six weeks immediately prior to receiving a scholarship, as are students who are enrolling in prekindergarten, kindergarten or first grade. Eligibility continues until a student graduates, reaches age 20 or returns to public school. SSOs may set their own additional eligibility guidelines.
Georgia’s tax-credit scholarship program has the opportunity to be one of the most expansive, successful programs in the country, as there are no arbitrary eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, its cap on available tax credits limits the number of scholarships to less than 3 percent of students statewide. Raising the cap substantially and adding a strong automatic escalator of the cap as contributions rise to meet demand would be an appropriate improvement, given the strong demand for scholarships and the impressive generosity of individual donors in Georgia. The program does benefit from a generous allowance on the size of individual scholarships, which can equal the average funding amount per student in Georgia public schools. Moreover, the program requires that schools be physically located in the state, obey nondiscrimination laws and satisfy the normal requirements to be a licensed private school in Georgia, but otherwise avoids unnecessary regulations.
O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2A-1 through 7 and 48-7-29.16
The initial lawsuit, filed in April 2014 by four Georgia residents backed by the Southern Education Foundation, alleged that the tax credit scholarship program violates the state constitution’s ban on providing public support to religious institutions, and several other constitutional provisions. Trial court ruled against plaintiffs, affirming constitutionality of the program. The court observed that the tax credit would not “increase their taxes or drain the state treasury,” and that “the Program may actually save the State money.” This ruling was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court and on June 26, 2017, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the complaint, ruling that plaintiffs had no standing to sue. Gaddy v. Georgia Department of Revenue, 802 S.E.2d 225 (2017).