Arizona residents can spread some extra holiday cheer this season in a little-known way. With a tax credit program, they can donate funds to school children in need.
The tax credit program is “one of the state’s best kept secrets,” according to AZ Central. The program allows taxpayers to give $200 each to a public school or charter school of their choice.
Many public schools are running low on important resources and rely on state funding to provide them with the supplies they need. Tax credit donations are an easy way to give back at the price of a postage stamp.
The benefit? Taxpayers get a dollar-for-dollar discount on their 2015 tax bill if filed by Dec. 31st.
The tax credit program has existed for 18 years, but many residents are still unaware of its benefits. The money goes toward special equipment and extracurricular activities that are often underfunded, such as new sports uniforms, field trips, and arts programs. Some schools in more dire need use the funds for basic supplies.
As reported in AZ Central, the distribution of generous donations is not always equal. Suburban neighborhoods tend to receive an exorbitant amount of donations compared to their lower-income counterparts.
Last year, 52% of the tax credit donations went to only 13 districts, all of which were public schools. The remaining 48% was divided among 214 districts and charter schools, leaving some schools with little to nothing.
Mountainside Middle School in Scottsdale received over $168,000 in donations, while John R. Davis, a school in south Phoenix, only saw a paltry $400.
That’s barely enough to cover the basic back to school necessities. Studies have shown that the average cost of school supplies from kindergarten through 12th grade is close to $700 per student.
Schools in the most need do not receive any funding and cannot provide the many enriching programs that they’d like to offer. There are no sports teams or music lessons because the district simply cannot afford them.
Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Luis did not receive a single dollar of the 2014 tax donation distribution. Principal Bethany Loucks said there’s “a lot [we] want to do [with the money],” yet for now the school learns to make do with what it has.
“We’ll have two or three basketballs, that sort of thing …,” she said. “When you’re a border community, I think we value what we can have a little bit more. It doesn’t come easy for us.”
Arizona tax payers are urged to help by specifying which school they’d like their tax donation to go and help the students who need it the most.