The Numbers Are In: SGOs Are Paying More than the State to Educate Students
On average, scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) paid $5,742.09 per students to attend one of the 155 schools participating in the program during the 2015-2016 school year according to reports filed by the SGOs with the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR).
By contrast, the state of Alabama allocated only $5,207.86 per public school student for the same time period.
That’s $535 more to educate each student using provisions under the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA).
What would $535 in additional funding per pupil mean for Alabama’s 737,000 public school students? An additional $394,536,285 million would be allocated.
And if those 3,752 (averaged over four quarters) students attending school on SGO-furnished scholarships had attended public schools and been funded at what state lawmakers deemed appropriate and adequate, it would have cost $2 million less to educate them.
As it stands, under provisions of the AAA, $2 million in additional funding was provided to educate 3,752 students.
These are just a few of the numbers buried in the state-mandated quarterly reports posted on the ADOR web site.
Test results for children using provisions under the AAA will be provided in September, but will be aggregated, and not provided by school.
A Quick Explanation of How Money Flows Through the AAA
The debate over whether the scholarships provided by SGOs represent money that could have been spent on public schools continues to rage.
On the one hand, the money donated to SGOs never technically enters the Education Trust Fund (ETF).
On the other hand, the tax credit claimed under the AAA represents real tax money that is owed to the ETF, but the state forgives the tax debt to facilitate the donation to the SGO.
In 2013, lawmakers set aside $40 million to allow tax credits to be claimed under the AAA. $25 million was available to be claimed by taxpayers donating money directly to SGOs (which then fund scholarships for students) and $15 million was available to be claimed by parents who incurred expenses moving their children out of a “failing” public school into either a non-failing public school or private school.
In 2013, the full $25 million was claimed by SGO donors, but only $100,000 was claimed (out of $15 million) under the parent tax credit provision.
In 2014, the cap was raised to $30 million for SGO donors, and $14 million was claimed. I don’t have a figure for the parent tax credit provision for that year.
In 2015, SGO donations totaled $11.8 million, but it’s unclear how much of that was claimed under the SGO tax credit provision. Parents claimed $179,000 under the separate provision for moving their children out of “failing” public schools.
Here’s the list of the 76 public schools deemed “failing” for the 2016-2017 school year. Children are only eligible for scholarships if their family’s income meets eligibility guidelines.
So, since 2013, the best estimation is that a total of $51 million in tax credits has been claimed through the AAA.
Here Are the Numbers
Here are the overall numbers, as reported by the SGOs to the ADOR.
Here is a look at enrollment at each participating school for the previous year. (Here’s a link to download the spreadsheet displayed below.)
There are more numbers to share, but that’s all for now.