Issuu on Google+

THIS REPORT COMMISSIONED BY THE HISPANIC COUNCIL FOR REFORM AND EDUCATION OPTIONS (HCREO) CREATED BY REPUBLIC MEDIA CUSTOM PUBLISHING

S U N D A Y, J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 2

GRADING ARIZONA’S SCHOLARSHIP ORGANIZATIONS PRIVATE SCHOOL TUITION ORGANIZATIONS CAN CHANGE LIVES, CREATE OPPORTUNITIES

BY MICHAEL FERRARESI

E

very child deserves the best education possible, clear and simple. For many Arizona youths, an education at a public school ranked among the worst in the U.S. is the only option. Private school tuition, especially for multiple children, is often out of the question for a family struggling to pay the mortgage or cope with medical bills. Enter Arizona's School Tuition Organization tax credit programs. The first program was introduced nearly 15 years ago as a way to provide deserving low and middle income families with a chance to send their children to private schools. Since then, two more scholarship programs have been created with one focused on special needs students. Using the state tax credit, charitable scholarship organization's known as STOs, turn donations from individuals and businesses into scholarships for students. Each STO judges a student's merit and need in awarding scholarships. But "need" is subjective. Many STOs target students from poor or working class families, while others provide a majority of their scholarship money to students whose parents earn more than $75,000 annually. Advocates say those lower-income children should have an equal right to a quality education, yet, even after recent changes to provide more accountability, some school tuition organizations favor students from financially stable families. The school tuition tax credit program can make a huge difference when scholarships are granted as it was originally intended. Julio Fuentes, president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, understands this better than most. His national organization works to educate families about the program. "This is a program that should focus on low income children," Fuentes said. "I'm in a position where I do have that choice for my kids. But that's not the same for many families in a poor or working class

WHAT ARE SCHOOL TUITION ORGANIZATIONS?

An STO is a charity that provides scholarships for students to attend private schools in Arizona. Individuals and businesses that donate to an STO charity get a tax credit that reduces their taxes by an amount equal to 100 percent of their donation. The scholarships help families afford private schools and provide a savings to taxpayers. Arizona law requires that the STOs use at least 90 percent of their annual donations to provide scholarships. STO Board members evaluate student applications and grant scholarships based upon merit and need. Each STO judges that merit or need uniquely. If you’re interested in learning more about STOs, call 602-320-9491 or visit www.hcreo.com. neighborhood down the road. They have no choice." Two years ago, the Arizona Legislature enacted measures to make the tuition tax credit laws stricter, forcing STOs to publicly report a breakdown of scholarships by family income. Advocates believe more financially challenged families will benefit from this

public disclosure, since those students deserve the same right to choose as students whose parents can pay their tuition comfortably, without help from an STO. Students like Jorge Solis. Olga Solis said she could never afford to keep her son, Jorge, 18, enrolled in a private school without the help of Arizona School Choice Trust. The STO provides Jorge, a senior at Glendale Christian Academy, and his two younger siblings, with more than $1800 apiece for annual scholarships. Jorge has received annual STO scholarships for 10 JORGE SOLIS years, allowing him to BY RICK D'ELIA continue to excel in private schools and work toward attending Arizona State University this fall. Solis's husband Jorge Sr., works as a landscaper and earns about $25,000 annually. Without the help from an STO, Jorge would have to fight harder for the same classroom and extracurricular attention that he receives freely at Glendale Christian. "The smaller class sizes allow him to unfold his dreams, where he doesn't feel so intimidated or scared by such large numbers of students," Solis said.

THIS SPECIAL REPORT GRADES SCHOOL TUITION ORGANIZATIONS ON HOW WELL THEY ARE SERVING ARIZONA’S FAMILIES


THE NUMBERS GAME: RESEARCH REVEALS WHICH STOs BEST SERVE ARIZONA’S POOR FAMILIES BY MICHAEL FERRARESI

S

tatistics can be interpreted in many ways, but some numbers are indisputable. Last year marked the first fiscal cycle in which Arizona school tuition organizations were required by revised state law to fully disclose a full breakdown of their scholarship awards based on the financial standing of students’ families. The data reported by nearly 60 Arizona STOs to the state Department of Revenue shows many of the organizations do a remarkable job of spending most of their resources helping students of low and middle income parents cover tuition for private schools. Ten school tuition organizations provided a disproportionate share of their scholarships to students from poor families that qualify for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program (less than $41,348 for a family for four). Meanwhile, 22 STOs provided a disproportionate share of their scholarships to poor and working class families (less than $76,494

10 STOs THAT HELP POOR STUDENTS THE MOST Each of these STOs awarded a disproportionate share of their scholarships to poor students: • Shepherd of the Desert Education Foundation • School Choice Arizona • Pappas Kids Schoolhouse Foundation • Catholic Tuition Support Organization • Arizona School Choice Trust • BEST Student Fund • Christ Lutheran School Foundation • White Mountain Tuition Support Foundation • Jewish Tuition Organization • Arizona Waldorf Scholarship Foundation

wareness is the key to making a difference. Few poor and working class parents are aware of the scholarships available for their children through three different Arizona scholarship programs. But more are learning through the outreach efforts in poor and working class neighborhoods by groups such HCREO, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options. Some of the community meetings hosted by HCREO have drawn

RANK

NUMBER OF SCHOLARSHIP SCHOLARSHIPS DOLLARS AWARDED AWARDED IN FISCAL ORGANIZATIONS IN 2011 YEAR 2011

 Arizona School Choice Trust 





$1,156,643

455

Arizona Waldorf Scholarship Foundation

$169,429

61

BEST Student Fund

$207,581

66

White Mountain Tuition Support Foundation

$262,280

137

Arizona Adventist Scholarships

$368,805

344

Catholic Education Arizona

$8,821,131

5,314

Catholic Tuition Support Organization

$2,430,729

1,363

Jewish Tuition Organization

$1,553,215

361

Montessori Scholarship Organization

$309,401

151

School Tuition Association of Yuma

$206,237

145

Shepherd of the Desert Education Foundation

$277,657

132

Southern Arizona Foundation for Education Lutheran

$327,608

160

$4,545,097

2,688

$199,050

71

$93,897

9

Institute for Better Education Pappas Kids Schoolhouse Foundation School Choice Arizona Yuma’s Education Scholarship Fund for Kids

for a family of four). Still, not enough of these scholarships are going to poor and working class families in part because so many of them are unaware of the scholarship opportunities available to their children.

HCREO WORKS TO HELP POOR FAMILIES GET SCHOLARSHIPS

A

SCHOOL TUITION ORGANIZATIONS WITH OVER $100,000 IN SCHO

hundreds of people interested in learning how their children can get a scholarship to attend the private school of their choice. With increased awareness, HCREO hopes to connect more deserving families to the scholarships their children are eligible to receive. For more information on Arizona STOs and how you can assist in improving our children's education, call 602-320-9491 or visit www.hcreo.com.



$564,586

463

$11,257,854

5,327

$855,122

144

$1,074,685

644

Christ Lutheran School Foundation

$198,767

70

Christian Scholarship Foundation

$192,486

135

Christian Scholarship Fund of Arizona

$311,146

194

Cochise Christian School Tuition Organization

$446,540

318

H.E.L.P. Scholarship Foundation

$792,081

546

Northern Arizona Christian School Scholarship Fund

$304,744

197

Schools With Heart Foundation

$279,034

73

Arizona Private Education Scholarship Fund

$1,247,878

557

Arizona Scholarship Fund

$3,782,696

2,753

$41,913

21

$1,146,809

800

Arizona Lutheran Scholarship Organization

$136,100

55

Lutheran Education Foundation

$117,626

59

New Valley Education Partners

$342,364

33

$20,000

12

Arizona Episcopal Schools Foundation

$694,564

146

Brophy Community Foundation

$893,885

412

Jewish Education Tax Credit Organization

$634,584

112

Orme Primavera Schools Foundation

$196,570

118

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization Arizona Independent Schools Scholarship Foundation Arizona Tuition Organization



Tempe Montessori Parent’s Organization Tuition Organization for Private Schools (TOPS for kids) 

Chabad Tuition Organization

SOURCES: ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE 2011, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, U.S. CENSUS

| 2 | SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2012


OLARSHIPS

RATING THE STOs

PERCENT OF PERCENT OF SCHOLARSHIPS SCHOLARSHIPS FOR: SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED TO (1) LOW (2) POOR (3) POOR & (4) SCHOOL (5) AWARDS AWARDED POOR AND ADMIN. STUDENTS WORKING CHOICES BY MERIT TO POOR WORKING COSTS CLASS AVAILABLE OR NEED 1 FAMILIES CLASS FAMILIES STUDENTS

HOW WE RATED THE STOs To help parents and potential donors determine which School Tuition Organizations are the best, we have rated STOs with more than $100,000 in donations on five key factors: PHONE

5

85.5%

100.0%

623-414-3429

1

57.5%

92.3%

520-529-1032

6

80.0%

98.6%

480-392-9729

7

60.0%

88.8%

928-521-3826

4

48.5%

100.0%

480-991-6777

4

47.1%

78.3%

602-218-6542

3

87.5%

100.0%

520-838-2571

1

59.9%

86.6%

480-634-4926

1

16.2%

100.0%

623-583-0571

5

17.5%

80.0%

928-782-5786

2

98.7%

100.0%

480-951-3432

0

35.4%

72.6%

520-742-2882

8

46.1%

81.2%

520-512-5438

1

89.3%

100.0%

602-441-5707

9

91.2%

100.0%

480-722-7502

3

10.3%

45.2%

928-314-0033

7

21.9%

53.4%

480-820-0403

4

27.2%

55.2%

520-798-0900

4

21.8%

57.5%

602-295-3033

0

68.6%

94.5%

602-957-7010

5

52.7%

98.2%

928-771-2018

4

42.0%

81.4%

520-322-0966

8

35.5%

60.7%

520-378-3177

6

10.2%

23.4%

623-694-3487

7

40.2%

72.6%

928-282-4934

3

39.5%

75.2%

602-274-0071

7

17.3%

41.7%

480-699-8911

3

29.9%

52.3%

480-497-4564

1

0%

0%

x

x

480-966-7606

0

25.0%

61.9%

480-414-8677

5

0%

13.3%

480-229-1727

9

0%

0%

x

x

602-864-9197

3

0%

0%

x

x

928-284-2272

2

0%

0%

x

x

602-944-2753

6

20.1%

20.1%

520-320-1386

2

0%

0%

x

x

602-264-5291

2

27.0%

65.8%

520-647-8442

8

34.0%

52.4%

928-445-5382

• Have they kept their administrative overhead costs low so that more than 90 percent of their donations are used for student scholarships? • Are they providing a disproportionate share of scholarships to poor students? • Are they providing a disproportionate share of scholarships to poor and working class students? • Are they letting students use their scholarships at any school the family chooses? • Are they awarding scholarships based upon the need and merit of the students rather than the recommendations of donors? We recognize the STO rating is a work in progress. We know that the first year of the information provided to the state does not provide a complete picture because it covers just the second half of fiscal year 2011. Still, we believe that shining a spotlight on the information about STOs sitting in state government files will help increase the confidence of donors and guide them to the best STOs. We hope that this will increase the overall financial support that is given to STOs and improve the quality of all the STOs participating in Arizona's scholarship programs. ( 1 ) LOW ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS Arizona law requires that 90 percent of a School Tuition Organization's revenue be paid out in scholarships. Stars () were awarded to STOs that met the standard; a dash (–) signifies those that did not meet the standard in the first year of reporting. STOs paying less than 90 percent are not necessarily in violation of the law. The Department of Revenue allows STOs a year or two to improve scores, or risk a review. The DOR is not currently concerned with the percentage of donations awarded as scholarships at any STO.

(–) STOs that provided less than 57 percent of their scholarships to poor students were given a dash.

( 2 ) SCHOLARSHIPS TO POOR STUDENTS Starting Jan. 1, 2011, STOs were required to collect family income information. They are required to report the amount of scholarships going to students with family incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level ($41,348 for a family of four) and the amount of scholarships going to families with family incomes between 185 and 342.25 percent of the poverty level ($76,494 for a family of four). We have labeled the first category as poor students and the second category as working class students.

() STOs that provided more than 71.5 percent of their scholarships to poor and working class students were given a star.

The first year's reports do not provide a full year of data. Analysis of awards to poor and working class families is based upon scholarships awarded in the second half of fiscal year 2011. Information could be further distorted as the time tables for scholarship awards are different for each STO. ( x ) Five STOs (New Valley Education Partners, Chabad Tuition Organization, TEMPO, Lutheran Education Foundation, and Brophy Community Foundation) awarded no scholarships in the second half of fiscal year 2011. According to the Arizona Department of Education, statewide 57 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced price lunch because their families make less than 185 percent of the poverty level. () STOs that provided more than 57 percent of their scholarships to poor students were given a star.

( 3 ) SCHOLARSHIPS FOR POOR AND WORKING CLASS STUDENTS STOs were required to report the amount of their scholarships going to students in poor families (185 percent of the poverty level) and working class families (185 to 342 percent of the poverty level.) A working class family of four would be making less than $76,494. According to the census, 71.5 percent of Arizona children live in a family making less than $75,000.

( – ) STOs that provided less than 71.5 percent of their scholarships to poor and working class students were given a dash. ( 4 ) SCHOOL CHOICES AVAILABLE According to the tax law, STOs must make their scholarships available for more than one school. () STOs that allow students to use their scholarships at any school of their choice. ( ) STOs that allow students to use their scholarships at only a smaller, approved list of schools. ( – ) STOs that gave scholarships to students at only one school ( 5 ) AWARDS MADE BY MERIT OR NEED State law prohibits donors from designating a specific student to benefit from their charitable contribution. STOs may allow donors to make recommendations, but cannot award, designate or reserve scholarships solely on the basis of donor recommendations. We believe STOs should award scholarships based solely on student merit or need. () STOs that do not allow student specific recommendations but rather have donations serve a general fund or a particular school fund. ( – ) STOs that permit donors to make student specific recommendations. SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2012 | 3 |


DREAMING IS BELIEVING: SCHOLARSHIP PREPARES BLIND BROPHY PREP STUDENT ‘FOR LIFE’ BY MICHAEL FERRARESI

R

eading Braille by hand is far slower than having a computer read it. Max Ashton knows the difference. The Brophy College Preparatory sophomore, who suffers from a degenerative blindness known as Leber’s congenital amaurosis, is thankful to have the computer help him “see” his homework. The 15-year-old drummer and varsity wrestler earned his place at Brophy through a $12,500 annual scholarship through Arizona School Choice Trust, a school tuition organization that helps students with disabilities. Max’s family would otherwise have struggled to keep him enrolled in a private school. “Really it was kind of awesome because it’s really expensive, so we really would have had to made sacrifices in our everyday lives,” said Max, who has testified to the Arizona Legislature about the benefit of his disabled student tax credit tuition scholarship.

If Max attended public school, he would still be involved with the same extracurricular programs but he said he doubted he would be as prepared for honors or advanced placement coursework. “I think Brophy is more difficult so it’s really going to prepare me for life,” Max said. “I’d probably still play drums and wrestle and stuff, but just having to have everything in Braille, that’s just really the main thing with school. It’s so much more difficult to do everything.”

By earning the tuition tax credit to attend Brophy, Max’s father Marc Ashton estimated that the scholarship saves the state several thousand dollars each year.

One size does not fit all, and that is especially true of special needs students. That is why Arizona created a specific scholarship program that allows parents of special needs students to send their children to the school that best meets their needs. As a result, hundreds of children with disabilities, such as Max, are being well educated in Arizona's private schools. Max’s textbooks are on the computer at Brophy. All he needs is a computer program that translates the text. In a public school, where the technology is less accessible, he would require more personal assistance. For him, the Brophy scholarship means the difference between dreaming of going to schools like Stanford or Cornell, and having a strong chance at being accepted at those schools. MAX ASHTON BY RICK D'ELIA

A  division  of   The  Arizona  Republic 200  E.  Van  Buren  St.,   Phoenix  AZ  85004 General  Manager:     CAMI  KAISER DĂŶĂŐĞƌƌĞĂƟǀĞ   Development:     ISAAC  MOYA Editor:     JIM  WILLIAMS Editorial  Intern:     JESSICA  RUSH Managing  Art  Director:     TRACEY  PHALEN Design:     CRAIG  KURTZ     THERESA  JOHNSON     á

|  4  |  SUNDAY,  JUNE  3,  2012

This  report  was     commissioned  by  the     Hispanic  Council  for     ZĞĨŽƌŵĂŶĚĚƵĐĂƟŽŶ   KƉƟŽŶƐ;,ZKͿ


HCREO