One and Done

For the second consecutive year, Georgia’s $58 million budget for tax credits to support private schools was gone on the first day of applications.

Last year, when the Georgia Department of Revenue began processing applications for the Qualified Education Expense Credit on Jan. 1, the total requested that day exceeded the cap, and each person received a prorated credit worth 63.4 percent of the full amount earned.

This year, application processing began Jan. 4, and demand for the $58 million in credits was even higher. As a result, the Department of Revenue expects the prorated credit for each person to be 53.36 percent of the requested amount.

Under the QEE Credit, taxpayers can apply for a dollar-for-dollar credit on their state income taxes for donations made to organizations that distribute the money as scholarships at private schools. One example that works with many of the Jewish day schools and some preschools is the ALEF Fund, an independent nonprofit organization established by and housed with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

The good news is that unused credits can be carried over to future tax returns for up to five years. The bad news is that there’s no sign of the General Assembly raising the $58 million cap even as the credit grows in popularity each year.

All-State at Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin Academy sophomore Isaac Reiss has been selected to play trumpet in the Georgia Music Educators Association’s All-State Concert Band.

It will be Isaac’s third time performing at All-State.

Isaac Reiss

Isaac Reiss

The first performance will be Saturday, Feb. 6 at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, and the second will be at the Classic Center in Athens on Saturday, March 5.

John Madden, professor of music and director of the symphonic band at Michigan State University, will conduct Isaac’s group.

Isaac has played with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra of Atlanta and now plays with the Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra and a small jazz combo at Georgia State University under the direction of Gordon Vernick. He also plays with renowned jazz artist Joe Gransden.

Black-Jewish Learning

Sherry Frank, the former longtime head of the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta office, explained the roots of Atlanta’s Black-Jewish Coalition as the featured speaker at the Weber School’s special Martin Luther King Jr. assembly.

Frank said the coalition began as a group of concerned citizens, including current Congressman John Lewis, campaigning for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

“There’s a history of blacks and Jews marching together and dying together,” Frank said. “Increasing the understanding and interaction between Jews and blacks starts with a conversation.”

Sophomore Rem Hellmann planned the King Day program. “Having gone through similar struggles, we should be present for the black community,” Rem said. “The conversation about black rights in America — and even Latino, Asian and Muslim rights in America — has nothing to do with political views or religious beliefs. It has to do with love for other people, for America and for our world.”

Day Schools Unite

Sherry Frank

Sherry Frank

Five of North America’s leading Jewish day school organizations and networks — PARDES: Day Schools of Reform Judaism, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network, the Schechter Day School Network and the Yeshiva University School Partnership — have agreed to form an integrated North American Jewish day school organization.

The decision recognizes that a combined day school organization (NewOrg until a name is finalized) will more effectively meet the diverse needs of schools by pooling the talent, expertise and resources dispersed among the five agencies. The new organization will offer an expanded set of programs, services and networking opportunities to benefit the more than 375 schools and close to 100,000 students served by the separate groups, as well as any other schools interested in participating.

NewOrg is committed to improving financial vitality and educational excellence in Jewish day schools and supporting a vibrant, visible and connected Jewish day school field. It will work with individual schools, groups of schools, and individual professional and lay leaders to strengthen skills and build capacity in areas of teaching and learning, leadership, governance, affordability, recruitment, retention, fund development, and endowment building.

The leadership of the five organizations voted in favor of integration after nearly a year of planning involving two people from each organization and representatives of the Avi Chai Foundation. That planning team worked with heads of schools, other professionals, lay leaders, funders and other partners to develop a business plan for the new organization.

“The formation of a single, integrated day school organization will optimize the quality of services we provide to the schools we serve, giving them the resources they need to build the strongest possible future,” the planning team said in a statement. “It is a definitive affirmation of the centrality of day schools in Jewish life and reflects our dedication to seeing Jewish learning, literacy, culture and commitment flourish in a rapidly changing world.”

The Planning Team has initiated a global search for a CEO.

Pride School Planned

A new option in private schools might be available in the fall if enough families are interested in sending their children to educational environment meant to make LGBT students feel comfortable.

Founder Christian Zsilavetz has told media outlets from the Los Angeles Times to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he envisions an open learning environment for about 60 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Anyone would be welcome at the school.

Zsilavetz has said he needs 10 to 15 students to start the school, which would operate from the Universalist Unitarian Church of Atlanta on Cliff Valley Way next to Interstate 85. Tuition would be around $13,000. If you’re interested, visit www.prideschoolatlanta.org.