September 28, 2020
Georgia GOAL Urges Policymakers to Embrace Additional Transparency and Accountability Measures
State’s Largest K-12 Student Scholarship Filing Provides Transparency Roadmap
Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, Inc. (“Georgia GOAL”), a nationally respected leader in promoting K-12 student scholarship program transparency and accountability, will be urging Georgia lawmakers to consider enhanced accountability and transparency measures for student scholarship organizations (“SSO”) in the state.
Specific recommendations will include requiring the Georgia Department of Revenue (“DOR”) to post each SSO’s annual audit report to the DOR website. “In fairness to the DOR, present law does not specifically authorize them to post the SSO audits,” explained GOAL President Lisa Kelly. “However, making lawmakers and the public aware of the financial results and the compliance, or lack thereof, of the participating SSOs will greatly enhance transparency and accountability.”
Last week, Georgia GOAL submitted to the Georgia Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) updated Supplemental Information that is a part of Georgia GOAL’s independently audited financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018.
By law, each year, each SSO operating under the Georgia Qualified Education Expense Credit Program is required to submit to the DOR an audit of its accounts conducted by an independent certified public accountant. The audit must verify (i) that the SSO has complied with requirements of Georgia law and regulations pertaining to the obligation of donations for scholarships; (ii) the designation of obligated revenues for specific recipients within the required time frame; (iii) the proper administration of multiyear scholarships; (iv) adherence to the maximum limit on the annual scholarship amount given to any student; (v) the consideration of the financial need of scholarship student families; (vi) the maintenance of separate accounts for scholarship funds and operating funds; and (vii) the existence of an independent board of directors of at least three persons.
Since it began operating in 2008, Georgia GOAL has been a leader in complying with the transparency and accountability provisions contained in applicable Georgia law and regulations, including recommending several amendments adopted by lawmakers to enhance those provisions. The updated Supplemental Information relating to Georgia GOAL’s 2019 and 2018 financial statements includes specific verification by its independent auditors confirming that, in awarding scholarships, Georgia GOAL designates obligated revenues for specific recipients within the required time frame; adheres to the maximum limit on the annual scholarship amount; and considers the financial need of applicant families based on all sources.
In addition to posting its annual audited financial statements on its website, Georgia GOAL posts an annual Transparency and Accountability Survey, an Annual Report, and copies of its federal IRS Form 990 returns for the past three years.
“Georgia GOAL is practically the gold standard nationwide for transparency,” said Jason Bedrick, Director of Policy for EdChoice, the nation’s oldest and leading educational choice non-profit organization. “That is why we have them lead seminars on accountability and transparency at our national scholarship organization summits to teach other scholarships organizations best practices in these areas.”
In advance of the next session of the Georgia General Assembly, Georgia GOAL will be providing key Georgia lawmakers with suggested transparency and accountability amendment language for their consideration.
May 8, 2018
Dear GOAL Supporter,
Yesterday, Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 217 into law, thereby increasing the annual cap on the Georgia Education Expense Credit Program from $58 million to $100 million for the next decade. The signing of HB 217 marks the largest expansion of this program since its inception in 2008. The increase in the cap on Education Expense Credits will provide thousands of additional Georgia students the opportunity to attend the schools of their parents’ choice.
HB 217 also moderately reduces the fees which student scholarship organizations (like Georgia GOAL) are allowed to retain and clarifies and improves the scholarship reporting process to the Georgia Department of Revenue. Finally, the bill includes a provision requiring State auditors to evaluate the program in five years to determine its financial and economic impact to the State, a responsible exercise which, if conducted in a fair and objective manner, will evidence a significant annual savings to the State and great benefit to the public.
Georgia GOAL sincerely appreciates Representative John Carson’s visionary sponsorship of HB 217, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle’s leadership in the Senate, Governor Nathan Deal’s signing of this important legislation, and the many other individuals who played such an essential role in securing the passage of HB 217 this legislative session, including thousands of taxpayer-donors, scholarship recipient families, and participating school officials across the state.
March 30, 2018
Dear GOAL Supporter,
Late last night, in the final hours of the 2018 legislative session, Georgia lawmakers made a groundbreaking investment in Georgia families, taxpayers, and GOAL participating school communities by passing HB 217, which, when signed by Governor Nathan Deal, will increase the annual cap on the Georgia Education Expense Credit Program from $58 million to $100 million for the next decade! This is, by far, the largest expansion of this program since its inception, and at least for the next few years, this development should significantly increase the proration percentage that donors are allowed to contribute to GOAL each year.
This was a hard fought victory, which your support made possible. First, heading into the session, key lawmakers understood that GOAL supporters are a passionate, politically-engaged constituency, the members of which were prepared to fight for a meaningful cap increase. Meanwhile, during the session, your petitions made it clear to lawmakers that the program should not be sunset after a five year period, as a few lawmakers proposed. Instead, the program continues indefinitely, though the $100 million cap reverts to $58 million after ten years. HB 217 also moderately reduces the fees which SSOs (like GOAL) are allowed to retain and clarifies and improves the SSO scholarship reporting process to the Georgia Department of Revenue, two changes which GOAL welcomes.
Finally, the bill includes a provision requiring State auditors to evaluate the program in five years to determine its financial and economic impact to the State, a responsible exercise which, if conducted in a fair and objective manner, will evidence a significant annual savings to the State and great benefit to the public. Such a result should be the basis for a further extension of, or increase in, the $100 million cap.
As your busy schedules may permit, please take a few minutes to email a note of appreciation to the following individuals:
- Representative John Carson, the visionary sponsor of HB 217, who poured countless hours, and his heart and soul, into this effort: John.Carson@house.ga.gov
- Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, whose early support for a much larger (and immediate) cap increase than the one contained in HB 217 at the start of this legislative session, and whose leadership in the Senate, were instrumental in achieving this victory: Casey.Cagle@senate.ga.gov
In the days ahead, I will be thanking many of the other individuals who played an important role in securing this favorable outcome, including House Speaker David Ralston, Representative Earl Ehrhart, Senator Ben Watson, House Ways & Means Chairman Jay Powell, Senator Brandon Beach, GOAL Corporate Advisory Board Member Charles Tarbutton, and GOAL’s lobbying team of Lee Hughes and Mark Middleton. Also, a special note of thanks to long-time AJC columnist Kyle Wingfield, whose commentaries in support of educational choice in Georgia have been so instrumental.
Finally, please know that we thank you, for without your thoughts, prayers, and immediate and overwhelming response to our legislative alerts, this would not have been possible. We are grateful for you and appreciate the confidence and trust you place in the GOAL team, all of whom feel privileged to serve our scholarship families, participating school communities, and contributors.