A new Georgia law will allow private schools like St. Simons Christians School to provide more scholarships to students.

House Bill 217, recently signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, has expanded a tax credit program for scholarships.

The law raised the cap on donations from $58 million to $100 million.

“This money will allow us to offer more scholarships to more families and to be able to offer more educational opportunities for our students,” said Mark Kok, the principal at St. Simons Christian.

Kok attended the bill signing ceremony with his family on May 7 in Atlanta.

“The whole bottom line of this is that it allows us to offer more scholarships to students that want to come to our school but don’t think that they can afford Christian education,” he said.

Through the program, taxpayers can pledge money — up to $1,000 for individuals, $2,500 for married couples and $10,000 for shareholders or owners of businesses — to designated private schools. The donors receive tax credits for the amount.

Nonprofit scholarship organizations then offer that money to students through scholarships. Donors can choose which school to give to, but they cannot decide which student receives scholarships.

“It costs the state of Georgia nearly $10,000 per student to educate one child in the state per year,” Kok said. “It’s to their advantage if they can offer some tax credits to families that are seeking private education, so that we can offer scholarships for them to come.”

St. Simons Christian uses the Georgia Student Scholarship Organization to provide scholarships.

“They actually send a donation to GASSO, and then we get those monies because all it is is a reallocation of their tax dollars,” Kok said. “So they’re reallocating their tax dollars to a school of their choice, rather than to the state.”

Sixty percent of families at St. Simons Christian are on scholarships, Kok said.

“Not everybody has an extra $1,200 a month lying around to be able to pay full tuition,” he said. “We love to be able to offer scholarships to families who want Christian education but can’t afford it.”

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