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Report: Woodstock School That Bans Homosexuality Receives State Dollars

Schools that "exclude, condemn, and demonize students for who they are and who they accept in their lives" should not receive public funds, according to a report from an Atlanta education policy group.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Patch has reached out to Cherokee Christian Schools and is waiting to hear back from the administration. 

Some scholarship money generated through a Georgia tax credit program has been used at religious schools that ban gay, lesbian and bisexual students, according to a report released late last month.

One school in the report from the Southern Education Foundation, an Atlanta education policy group, is in Woodstock.

At Cherokee Christian Schools, the Parent/Student Handbook for the 2012-13 school year states: 

"In accordance with the Statement of Faith and in recognition of Biblical principles, no “immoral act” or “identifying statements” concerning fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, or pornography, will be tolerated," the policy states. "Such behavior will constitute grounds for expulsion."

The Southern Education Foundation does not take issue with the policies of schools such as Cherokee Christian School. They have a constitutional right to believe whatever they want to believe and to operate their private affairs in accordance with those beliefs, the foundation said.

But schools that "exclude, condemn, and demonize students for who they are and who they accept in their lives" should not receive public funds, the foundation wrote in its report. "Tax dollars should go to schools that educate all students. That is the promise and virtue of our democracy."

Legislators in 2008 established a tax credit program to allow individual and corporate taxpayers to contribute to qualified student scholarship organizations and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their Georgia income tax liabilities. SSOs provide the funds to private schools for all or part of a student’s tuition.

While the amounts awarded to each school are unknown, more than $170 million in taxpayer funds have been set aside to cover the tuition costs of students in private schools during the last four years.

And the Southern Education Foundation knows of at least 115 private schools in the tax credit scholarship program that have severe anti-gay policies or belong to state and national private school associations that promote anti-gay policies, according to the report.

"Altogether, as much as one-third of all private schools participating in Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program may be governed by the schools’ explicit anti-gay policies or their church’s anti-gay statements of faith," according to the report.

And that count, according to the report, is likely an understatement.

Click here to read the full report from the Southern Education Foundation. It is also attached to this article as a PDF.

Tell us: should public money be used to assist needy families who want to send their children to private schools with explicit anti-gay policies? 

ella covington February 04, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Is it truely tax dollars?? I am misunderstanding...if private companies are donating to the funds then is it money from us? And if the parents know going in to the school what the policy is and still let them go what's the problem? I do think you can scream parent choice when it comes to charter schools who also get true tax funds. But then turn around and say you can not pick your choice when it comes to this. And it seems to me the policy means no shirts, bags ect promoting this subject matter which seems to be sex in general. For me as a parent I like that. School is a place to learn math, history, grammer and computers. Not learn about sex, politics, or who can sleep with who.
ella covington February 04, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Sorry it should read you can not scream about parent choice for charter but not when it comes to this
JKL February 04, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Really Ms. Dixon, you should do a better job of researching your material before posting such stories. This is a total misrepresentation of both elements of this story. I hope that the intelligent citizens of Cherokee county see this story for what it is, a sensational headline with no journalistic merit.
CL Atkins February 04, 2013 at 07:46 PM
A couple of things need to be clarified in this story. 1) If the money is donations from private companies then it is not "public money". 2) It says the money is used for scholarships. What kind of scholarships, academic or based on them being in financial need? Either way though, if these scholarships are granted to students it should not matter which school their parents decide to send them to. Same being true if the money is given out to schools that then grant the scholarships. Faith based schools should be given money the same as any other school. It is their right to operate according to their faith. If there was a school that catered to bi-sexual and homosexual kids, this would not even be a question!
Kristal Dixon (Editor) February 04, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Hi everyone: The following graphs make it clear how the program operates: Legislators in 2008 established a tax credit program to allow individual and corporate taxpayers to contribute to qualified student scholarship organizations and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their Georgia income tax liabilities. SSOs provide the funds to private schools for all or part of a student’s tuition. While the amounts awarded to each school are unknown, more than $170 million in taxpayer funds have been set aside to cover the tuition costs of students in private schools during the last four years. Also, be sure to read the attached report from the organization. Thanks!
KEC February 04, 2013 at 08:19 PM
There are private schools and there are private christian schools. Christian schools teach Bible based values as well as academics so if they do not believe in alternate life styles then that is their rights. Parents are aware of these teachings. I am sure they are not gay bashing as alleged.....
Brooke Bernard February 04, 2013 at 08:42 PM
When an individual donates their tax dollars to an SSO, they are simply indicating specifically WHERE their tax dollars should go. Rather than randomly paying money to the state, they get to say, "Give the money I have to pay anyway to THIS school." The school then puts the money they receive in scholarships for students.
Debra DeBord February 04, 2013 at 08:48 PM
I do not condone bashing of certain individuals nor bullying them either. With that said, a Christian School should reflect the values of the church. That is why most parents opt to send their children there. If they are not a christian then any private school would do. A church or a faith based school should not change it's values to suit a societies changing views on values. Parents are free to send their children to any school if they do not agree with a certain schools value system. The government should not be able to penalize a school that is faith based. This is a form of socialism or conunism, when the government is allowed to force it's beliefs on churches or faith based organizations. As long as a faith based organization is operating within the law and causing no one harm, they should be left alone. What's next? Telling a church that if they preach against certain groups, such as lesbians or gays, that they wont be eligible for tax emption on certain purchases? People beware. It's starts out small and then grows. If the government starts ording the Christian schools around, then Churches will be next. Then who knows what else.
Frank Jones February 04, 2013 at 10:15 PM
The issue isn't whether a private church school can have its beliefs about homosexuality, transgender or any other item. The issue is whether state tax dollars should be used to support church schools that have such beliefs. Now some of you think that SSO money isn't state tax money since it's a "scholarship" given by individuals and businesses. However, you are wrong! The SSO program operates by allowing individual and business taxpayers to claim a Federal tax deduction and Georgia tax credit for each dollar the taxpayer donates to the SSO. To see how this works, consider the following scenarios: 1. Taxpayer with taxable income of $100,000 would owe roughly $6,000 in taxes to GA. 2. If same Taxpayer donated $2,000 to an SSO, he/she would owe $4,000 in taxes to GA (Taxes $6,000 less Tax Credit $2,000). The Taxpayer is directing GA to spend $2,000 to support a specific SSO and a specific school. And if the school discriminates, then we the citizens of Georgia are promoting discrimation. This is just one of the many problems with SSOs. Among the other problems are that the SSOs do not report which schools receive the money and which students receive the money. This is a program which receives $50+ million annually with little oversight. Some in the legislature want to increase the program to $80 million or even $100 million annually while underfunding public schools.
sonmi-451 February 04, 2013 at 11:32 PM
In response to the idea of not wanting sex in schools, I get that. The problem is that orientation isn't really about sex. When I see homophobic reactions, it is often based on hand holding or a declaration of a relationship. That's not exactly the same thing as watching people have sex in a way you disapprove. Because of this, these policies address a group people who it is widely believed have an innate trait not unlike skin color, not a behavior. There are plenty of state and federal laws already to require that sex be a private behavior whether with the same sex, opposite sex, or all by yourself.
CAL February 05, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Frank, get the facts straight. There is no federal tax deduction for a contribution to an SSO. Also, as a GA tax payer I have to basically prepay the contribution amount and then wait for the stare to issue the credit when tax time rolls around. The state allowed SSO's because studies have shown that private schools can educate students for less than the state. As a citizen of this state, the legislature has said that I can redirect a portion of my tax dollars to a qualifying SSO. I pay to send my child to a private school (I receive no money from an SSO, but have contributed) and I still pay my taxes to the local school system. You may not like the SSO but I don't like paying for my child's education twice because of the grossly under qualified school system in this state.
jud February 05, 2013 at 01:11 AM
The money is being given as a part of a tax incentive. The program allows money that would otherwise be collected and subject to public scrutiny/pushback and places in the hands of "donors"... not very fair in my mind.
No More Bullies February 05, 2013 at 01:24 AM
CAL- if the SSO is a registered 501c3 public charity, as they are required to be, then yes, a federal tax deduction is in play. Get your facts straight. Check any of the SSO websites for more information-- I looked at three and all mentioned a federal deduction in addition to the state credit. If SSOs are covering kids who were already in public school, it COSTS the state money to give the credit. While it would be nice to prove the savings you allege, legislators made the whole program top secret so no details could be released to prove or disprove the savings-- or if the program has helped a single low income child.
Debra DeBord February 05, 2013 at 01:27 AM
I think that this is a way that "govt" is trying to make such organizations conform. I think that if they follow state curriculum, that should qualify them for the tax breaks.
Jack February 05, 2013 at 01:45 AM
With voters striking down the charter school amendment I can see education isn't a priority in Georgia.
Valerie Stancil February 05, 2013 at 02:27 AM
No tax dollars, no matter how they come about or how small the amount, should ever go towards religious schools or ANY school that discriminates against students in this way. This is straight up discrimination, just as it would be if the handbook banned a particular ethnicity or race. This is our generations civil rights issue, and many of you are on the wrong side of history. Religious schools have a valued and essential place in our society, however the separation of state that is such a cornerstone of our constitution must prevail. Also, the comparison to charter schools is completely invalid, as charters, being public schools, have to follow the same anti-discrimination and church/state separation laws as all other public schools. Thank you so much, Ms. Dixon, for writing this. This story has been in the New York Times for several weeks already, and can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/21/education/georgia-backed-scholarships-benefit-schools-barring-gays.html?_r=0
Frank Jones February 05, 2013 at 04:06 AM
CAL...You need to get your facts straight. SSO contributions are deductible on Schedule A of the federal return as a charitable donation. That is the primary reason for the SSO structure. Charitable donations aren't subject to AMT phase-outs/limits whereas state income tax is. SSO's weren't created because as you put it, "private schools can educate students for less than the state", but instead, to allow a few well-healed families (and most likely state politicians) to send their children to private schools at taxpayer expense. If you actually send your children to private school and contribute to an SSO, but your child isn't receiving a scholarship, you're paying even more. If you're preparing your own tax return, you need to seek professional advice. If you're using a tax pro, you need to find a new one.
Frank Jones February 05, 2013 at 04:11 AM
Jack...unfortunately, voters DIDN'T strike down the charter school amendment. The charter school industry, lobbyists, out-of-state forces, and in-state politicians out-spent and manipulated the citizens into voting for Amendment 1. As a result, for-profit charter schools will have free reign within our state. Amendment 1 wasn't about education quality, it was about the almighty dollar...Corporate Greed.
Aww Now February 05, 2013 at 05:05 PM
STOP! Just because one screams louder does not make him or her right. SSO's are allowed by the tax code, just as donating to other non-profits. It's also a great way to fund private education, and donors get to see exactly where their money goes. Next, if this school were for LBGT families or students, then these same agreements would be made with everyone switching sides (no pun intended). The only "right" answer is a middle of the road, cookie-cutter educational system that embraces nothing and endorses everything. But don't say cats are good, because I'm a dog person. Let's also remember the world is bigger than Cherokee County. This is a conservative politically controlled area, and thus liberals are upset, but it was a liberal congress that allowed this to continue. I presume because they want to get deductions for the not-so-conservative / non-traditional Christian value school that their children attend. Not every private school is Christian-based education. Parochial schools, Judaism, Islam, Druidism. I'd rather give money to a local school than the Gold Dome in Atlanta or that hot mess in Washington, DC any day. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
No More Bullies February 05, 2013 at 07:26 PM
I meant to (say) type "already in private school".
Frank Jones February 05, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Aww Now...I'm wondering what you mean by "it was a liberal congress that allowed this to continue". The SSO law is Georgia based, not Federal. I have to believe you're not referring to the Gold Dome as a liberal congress.
Robert February 11, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Let me get this straight. I am allowed to reduce my tax liability by making a monetary contribution to an SSO. So, rather than paying that $ in taxes, I am donating it elsewhere. The $ is not paid as "taxes." However, since I prevented that $ from being paid in "taxes," you (author of this article) are claiming that tax $ has been paid to Cherokee Christian School? This is what is wrong with our country. We have numbed our collective mind from being able to think logically. If my giving money to a charitable organization that reduces my tax liability equals "tax dollars being paid to said charitable organization" then you are of the mindset that the government owns all of my income. And if you wish to split hairs by pointing out there is a difference between receiving a "tax credit" under an SSO, and a "reduction in taxable income" which is what one receives when making a donation to one's church, then you are also of the mindset that the government own all of my income. There are countless ways to reduce one's tax liability. Take for instance the interest you pay on your mortgage. If you are claiming a mortgage interest deduction and the bank that holds your mortgage is a "Christian" run organization, or heaven forbid that Truett Cathey sits on its board, does that mean "tax" dollars are going to fund a Christian run bank? And I must say that I am disappointed in the fact that this article appears to be nothing more than a summary of a very agenda-driven report.
Retired Teacher February 13, 2013 at 02:45 PM
NO!

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