When it comes to choosing a school for their child, parents have many options: neighborhood public school, home school, charter school, online academy, independent school, or religious private school. Academic excellence is paramount in the decision. From an eternal perspective, a Christian education is invaluable, yet affording independent options can be challenging. The calling Christian educators have for providing students with an exceptional education within a uniquely Christ-centered environment makes it worth investigating. Nurturing and equipping students to honor God, love others, and walk in Truth is an investment that will last for eternity.
Chris Eppling, Vice President of Student Services at Truett McConnell University, a private, four-year university located in Cleveland, Ga., said, “The real question to investigate is not, ‘What will I get for the money I pay to have a Christian education?’ it is, ‘What will I forfeit if I do not invest in an education from a biblical worldview?’”
TAX CREDIT AND VOUCHER PROGRAMS
According to the American Federation for Children, “...school choice means allowing parents to select the best schools for their children — public or private. School choice includes school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs, education savings account programs, public charter schools, virtual charter schools, and meaningful public school choice.”
To assist families in making a private or independent school education financially feasible, many states offer tax credit or voucher programs. The state of Georgia has two such programs. “The Special Needs Scholarship Program provides private school vouchers to students with disabilities. Vouchers are equivalent to the funding the public school would have received for the student, minus federal funds,” says the Hunt Institute. “Through the Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit, individuals and corporations can earn a tax credit for donations made to student scholarship organizations. Students are eligible for a scholarship to attend a qualified private school if they are currently enrolled in a public school or entering Kindergarten.”
WHAT'S THE GOAL FOR GEORGIA GOAL?
In 2008, the Georgia General Assembly passed the Qualified Education Expense Credit law that permits Georgia taxpayers to receive a state income tax credit for amounts contributed to qualified student scholarship organizations (SSO). Scholarships are awarded to students who are currently enrolled – and have been enrolled for at least six weeks – in a Georgia secondary or primary public school or who are eligible to enroll in Pre-K, Kindergarten, or first grade. Recipient students use their GOAL scholarships to attend private K-12 schools of the parents’ choice.
The Georgia Department of Education recognized the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, as the first SSO approved to accept contributions and offer scholarships to students to attend private K-12 schools in Georgia.
As Mount Paran Christian School continues its mission of developing servant-leaders, the school strives to make an independent education as affordable for as many families as possible. The Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program has become a vital part as MPCS continues to offer families a choice for private Christian education.
“All students come to our school through the same admission process and meet our covenantal, academic, and behavioral standards. Once they are determined to be mission-fit, they may apply and qualify for financial assistance,” shares MPCS Chief Development Officer Jennifer New. “The Georgia GOAL scholarship helps families whose only barrier to a Christ-centered education is financial resources. We are honored to welcome approximately 70 students per year into the MPCS community as a result of Georgia GOAL. Since joining this program, the recipient students, families, and our entire school community have been enriched by having socio-economic diversity that Georgia GOAL contributors provide.”
A LIFE-CHANGING GIFT
Mount Paran Christian School has been a GOAL partner since the scholarship program’s inception. Since that time, MPCS has been able to provide more than 270 students with the opportunity to be part of this community — students and families who otherwise may not have been able to attend. Helping mission-fit families who desire a Christian education for their children has been one of the greatest joys and blessings of this program. Families have shared how this opportunity has been life changing not only for the students, but the family unit as well.
“We are so grateful to be part of the Mount Paran family, and, without the GOAL assistance, we would not be here. It has changed our children’s lives, and they are so thankful for the opportunity to have an education at such a great school.”
“The Georgia GOAL program has been a blessing to our family. It has given us the opportunity to have our daughter learn in a Christ-centered environment. As a result, she is growing to be a kind, loving, considerate, and compassionate young lady whom we love and admire. She is striving to be the best she can be and is maintaining a 4.0 GPA. We feel very blessed.”
“I am thankful for the genuine care I have received from my teachers. The faculty and staff see their work not as a job, but as a calling and a ministry, and that shows in the quality education and compassionate attention given to students.”
Through Georgia's Education Expense Credit, the GOAL Scholarship Program allows taxpayers to play a vital role in improving K-12 educational opportunities. This is a win-win-win for taxpayer donors, scholarship recipients, and the school community. Contributing to Georgia GOAL for a 100-percent Georgia income tax credit helps maximize this source of financial assistance for students, who would otherwise not be able to afford a Christ-centered education.
5 SIMPLE STEPS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Each new calendar year brings Georgia taxpayers the opportunity to apply for a state tax credit. Contributors receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit, which is more beneficial than a mere tax deduction. Georgia GOAL has streamlined their online process, and it is incredibly easy to participate. For contributors, the main step is simply to apply. GOAL handles everything else and notifies the donor when and how to make the contribution.
- Apply online for a Georgia GOAL state tax credit at www.goalscholarship.org (currently accepting for 2023).
- GOAL notifies donors once approved by the Department of Revenue.
- Contributors have 60 days from approval to make the contribution to GOAL.
- GOAL provides contributors with tax documentation for tax-filing purposes.
- Contributors take the credit.
Because of the popularity of the tax credit program across the state of Georgia, the yearly cap was being consumed within the first few months of each year. As a result, the cap was increased in 2019 and again in 2023. Additionally, tax credit contribution limits were increased.
BUSINESS OWNERS CAN BE SUPERHEROES TOO!
The Georgia GOAL program is especially popular with business owners including S corps, LLCs, and partnerships. Business owners see the win-win opportunity to redirect a portion of their state taxes, which they must pay anyway, to an independent school of their choice.
One local business owner put it this way: “It’s a no brainer in my book. I can choose how I want a portion of my state taxes to be used, and it is a rewarding feeling to know you are helping families who want a Christian education for their children but couldn’t afford it otherwise.”
Additionally, GOAL resources free up Mount Paran Christian School’s financial aid dollars so that the school can direct these funds toward current families who may need a little temporary assistance, therefore benefiting the school’s resources to the fullest.
The GOAL tax credit program has given the gift of an independent school education to more families than otherwise possible without. It is a program that is truly changing students’ and families’ lives in remarkable ways!
Cindy Gibbs is the assistant director of development for Mount Paran Christian School, where she has served for 22 years. She also serves as the school’s Annual Fund manager and oversees the work in the Alumni Relations office.
For more information about the Georgia GOAL program at MPCS or to hear personal testimonies from contributors to the GOAL program, click here or contact the development office at 470-250-0008 extension 3537.
Additional Resources: Tax Tips When Sending Kids to Private School