Make use of school tuition tax credit before Dec. 31
Celebrated Waste Land poet TS Eliot got it wrong. This year May, not April, turned out to be the cruelest month, at least for underprivileged Arizona school children.
In May state budget negotiations ended with the inclusion of a $5 million provision to allow Arizona businesses to make tax-deductible donations for school tuition scholarships. These scholarships would be available to low-income public school students to use to transfer to a private school if their families wished.
Unfortunately, just two days after announcing the program, Governor Napolitano changed her mind and vetoed the scholarship program. This month Arizona taxpayers can take matters into their own hands and make sure the neediest of these children still receive the educational opportunities they deserve.
Under Arizona's landmark individual tuition tax credit scholarship program, state residents can take a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to non-profit charities that give children tuition scholarships. Individuals can contribute up to $500, and married couples filing jointly can donate up to $825.
The program won't cost you any additional money in the long run‹it simply allows you to choose how a portion of your state income taxes are spent. Every penny you donate is counted against your state tax bill in April. If you owe $1,000 in taxes and contribute $500 to a scholarship organization, you will only owe the state $500. Last year, taxpayers made 64,000 scholarship tax credit donations.
For a child in need, a private school scholarship can make the difference of a lifetime. Cordes Lake mother Lin Mullins explains, "Since receiving a scholarship, my child has received academic awards as top student in each class and been inducted to the National Cum Laude society. My dream for my child is to be successful and happy in her professional and personal life." For Mullins, the individual tuition tax credit program gives "students the opportunities they require in order to make the most of their high school years and hence the rest of their lives."
More than any other state, Arizona is revolutionizing K-12 education by giving families options in schooling. This year, more than 80,000 children attended charter schools in Arizona, and over 20,000 additional children used tax credit funded scholarships to attend private schools. Almost one of every 10 Arizona students is attending a non-traditional public school.
The most important aspect of these programs is the lives they change. Tucson mother Sonia Terraza says tuition tax credit scholarships helped her family get "started in meeting our goal of providing our children a better education that will enable them to become the future citizens that will lead our nation."
Make December the month you help change a child's life. It will take 10,000 donations to raise the $5 million in scholarships that Gov. Napolitano vetoed. After you make your donation, tell your friends and co-workers the individual tuition tax credit scholarship program is their opportunity to change a needy child's life by choosing how your taxes are spent. But there is no time to spare, in order to have your scholarship donation count against your 2005 tax bill, you must make your donation by December 31.
To learn more about the scholarship tax credit program, visit the Arizona Department of Revenue: www. azdor.gov/ResearchStats/schooltaxcredit.htm or talk to the person who prepares your tax returns.
To make a scholarship donation to help a low-income child, visit Arizona School Choice Trust, where you can make your tax credit donation online: at www.asct.org/online.htm.
(Editor's note: Dan Lips is Education Analyst with The Heritage Foundation and Senior Fellow with the Goldwater Institute. Vicki Murray, Ph.D., is director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Educational Opportunity. Their website is www.goldwaterinstitute.org.
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