Rep. Brooks Coleman, R - Duluth, shows off a bobble head doll of himself he was presented on the final day of the 2018 General Assembly in honor of his retirement.
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Among Brooks Coleman’s legacy, a tax credit benefiting public schools

I will miss outgoing House Education Committee Chair Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth. He cared about public schools and was the most diplomatic committee chair when faced with nutty bills. 

He’d give the sponsor an audience, listen politely and then somehow vanquish the legislation -- with Southern charm and that famous grin. He’s leaving the General Assembly after 26 years so his grandkids can see more of that grin.

As a result, I fear Georgia will see more damaging education bills slip through since Coleman won’t be serving as gatekeeper. 

I appreciate Coleman not just for the bad bills he stopped, but for the good laws he pushed.

Among his efforts is a tax credit program for public schools that he writes about today.  His tax credit is like the one that allows taxpayers to contribute to a private school scholarship fund while recouping their entire contribution via a reduction in their taxes owed the state.

But his program benefits public schools, fitting for a man who was a public school teacher.

By Brooks Coleman 

As a former teacher, 40-year veteran of Gwinnett County Public Schools and the father of a public-school teacher, I know how important a quality education is for every child. Unfortunately, many of Georgia’s children attend schools that struggle to ensure every student, regardless of zip code, has the opportunity to graduate from high school armed with the skills needed to succeed in life.

As a state representative and the chairman of the House Education Committee, I created an easy way for Georgians to invest their tax dollars directly into the state’s public schools – the Qualified Education Donation Tax Credit. This 100 percent tax credit allows citizens and businesses to donate to the Innovation Fund Foundation, a nonprofit organization, and receive a dollar for dollar credit (not just a deduction) on their state income taxes. If you give $100, you save $100 on your taxes. It's almost too good to be true. The IFF can receive up to $5 million annually from this tax credit, and there is still time to give this year.

Some of you may be thinking: “How do I know that my donation will actually support the schools that need it the most?” The law that created the tax credit specifies that the IFF give priority to the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state. In fact, the IFF recently awarded its first round of grants. One of the grants enables two high-need, rural schools working directly with the state’s Chief Turnaround Office to provide mental and behavioral health support to over 700 elementary and middle school students. The grant can also be utilized to provide additional resources to meet both the academic and non-academic needs of students. 

I’m also proud of the fact that the IFF will build upon Gov. Nathan Deal’s existing and successful efforts to provide grants that fuel innovation in Georgia’s public schools. Since 2014, Gov. Deal has provided state funding to Georgia’s Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund provides grants to public schools and districts to design programs that target the root causes of low academic achievement and, ultimately, transform education for Georgia’s students. 

Among its projects, Clarke County School District received $45,000 to combat illiteracy by using community partners to directly address childhood trauma in the home. Westside High School in Macon received $700,000 to implement personalized learning academies that provide all its students, regardless of circumstance, a path to graduate from high school. During the program, Westside’s graduation rate increased by over seven percentage points.

The Qualified Education Donation Tax Credit will fund additional grants like these – enabling all of Georgia’s schools to provide the quality education necessary for our students to succeed in school and beyond. 

Georgia is fortunate to have many passionate parents, educators, organizations, and communities who are committed to supporting the needs of the whole child. This new tax credit will allow all of us to play a vital role in supporting their efforts. For more information, click here. 

Georgia’s children are counting on you.

About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey is a longtime reporter for the AJC where she has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy for...
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