Tax Credit Scholarship Program Channels Funds to Private Schools With Anti-Gay Policies, Report Finds

More than a hundred private schools in Georgia that receive state funds to offer scholarships to students who cannot afford a private education have anti-gay policies in place, the New York Times reports.

According to a report (18 pages, PDF) issued by the Southern Education Foundation, the tax credit scholarship program, which currently operates in eleven states, has funneled $170 million to private schools for scholarships aimed at low-income children, even though at least a hundred and fifteen of the schools "promote anti-gay policies and practices among their members." One of them, Cherokee Christian Schools in Woodstock, Georgia, has a policy which states that "Homosexual behavior, whether an 'immoral act' or 'identifying statement,' is incompatible with enrollment at [the school]...and is a basis for dismissal." Similarly, the Times reports, a male student at Shiloh Hills Christian School in Kennesaw who says he likes boys or admits to being homosexual will be expelled.

Leaders at these schools argue that the scholarship program, which is intended to avoid conflicts between church and state by enlisting nonprofit organizations to collect and distribute the funds, does not violate discrimination laws because it is open to schools with all kinds of different missions and philosophical approaches.

Not everyone agrees. "We are circumventing our own public policy with public money," State Representative Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) told the Times. "In our public schools, we do not disallow a child from attending on the basis of their sexual orientation. If this were to be happening at any public school, the lawsuit would be great and the settlement extraordinary."