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Georgia

Constitutional Provisions

Blaine Amendment

“No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.” Georgia Const. Art. I, § II, ¶ VII.

Education Articles

“Pursuant to laws now or hereafter enacted by the General Assembly, public funds may be expended for any of the following purposes: (1) To provide grants, scholarships, loans, or other assistance to students and to parents of students for educational purposes …. ” Georgia Const. Art. VIII, § VII, ¶ I.

“Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits …. No independent school system shall hereafter be established.” Georgia Const. Art. VIII, § V, ¶ I.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes


Existing Private School Choice Programs

Georgia Special Needs Scholarships Program
Georgia Code Annotated Sections 20-2-2110 to -2118

Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit
Georgia Code Annotated Sections 20-2A-1 to -7, 48-7-29.16

Relevant Case Law

Gaddy v. Georgia Department of Revenue, No. 2014 CV 2445538 (Fulton County Super. Ct. Feb. 5, 2016)

Plaintiffs, taxpayers who support the public schools, argued that the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship program violates the Blaine Amendment, the Educational Assistance provision (Article VIII, Section VII, Paragraph 1) and several other state constitutional provisions, as well as the Georgia Tax Code. The Superior Court of Fulton County found that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they could show no injury. In addition, the court found that tax credits are not public funds to which those provisions apply. The case is on appeal.

Taetle v. Atlanta Independent School System, 625 S.E.2d 770, 771 (Ga. 2006)

In refusing to void a lease agreement between a local school district and a church, the Georgia Supreme Court held that “[a] political subdivision of this state cannot give money to a religious institution in such a way as to promote the sectarian handiwork of the institution. But that is not to say that a political subdivision of the state cannot enter into an arms-length, commercial agreement with a sectarian institution to accomplish a non-sectarian purpose.”

Richter v. Savannah, 127 S.E. 739 (Ga. 1925)

With no analysis, the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated a taxpayer suit seeking to stop the city of Savannah from paying for the services of a Catholic hospital.

Bennett v. La Grange, 112 S.E. 482 (Ga. 1922)

The Georgia Supreme Court held that a city’s contract with a Christian service organization to provide care for the city’s poor violated the precursor to Georgia’s current Blaine Amendment because the organization could not separate its religious and secular missions.

2000 Ga. AG LEXIS 11 (2000 Opinion Attorney General Ga. No. 2000-5)

The Georgia attorney general opined that the federally funded Georgia Reading Challenge Program grants could not be made directly to churches or other religious institutions for the provision of after-school care, opportunities to improve student reading skills, and enhancement of student interest in reading without violating Georgia’s Blaine Amendment.

1988 Ga. AG LEXIS 35 (1988 Opinion Attorney General Ga. 126)

In an unofficial opinion expressing the views of the author and not those of the Attorney General’s Office, the senior assistant attorney general for Georgia opined that allowing a religious organization to generate income through use of school property under a lease arrangement at less than the fair market rental rate would violate the indirect aid language of Georgia’s Blaine Amendment.

1988 Ga. AG LEXIS 11 (1988 Opinion Attorney General Ga. 94)

In an unofficial opinion expressing the views of the author and not those of the Attorney General’s Office, the senior assistant attorney general for Georgia opined that a county school system can contract with a religious organization to provide after-school programs for its students if the arrangement does not involve a flow of public or school funds from the school system to the religious organization.

1972 Ga. AG LEXIS 146 (1972 Opinion Attorney General Ga. 266)

The Georgia attorney general opined that legislation providing $400 per academic year to Georgia students attending religious institutions of higher learning that were not primarily for religious training is consistent with Georgia’s Blaine Amendment.

1969 Opinion Attorney General No. 69-125 (copy available from the Institute for Justice)

The Georgia attorney general opined that the Georgia Supreme Court would consider unconstitutional a contract for goods or services between a public elementary or secondary school and a private religious school.

1945-47 Opinion Attorney General p. 222 (copy available from the Institute for Justice)

The Georgia attorney general opined that a county board of education may not expend public school funds to transport children to schools other than those operated by the public school system.

Analysis and Recommendations

Both tax credit and voucher programs are school choice options for Georgia. The Georgia Constitution contains a Blaine Amendment, but it also contains an education provision (Article VIII, Section 7, Paragraph 1) that explicitly authorizes the General Assembly to provide grants and scholarships to students and parents for educational purposes, such as those of voucher programs. As of press time, an unsuccessful challenge to the Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit program is on appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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