Last year, Phoenix residents saved $15 million on their taxes by making a donation to a local school that qualifies for the state’s dollar-for-dollar education tax credit.
It’s a smart choice for taxpayers. And better yet, the funds help pay for the kind of extracurricular activities that are essential to a quality education, but are rarely included in cash-strapped school district budgets.
These donations go a long way, but too often our schools that need the most help get the fewest donations. While some school districts see contributions of more than $100 per student, too many take in an average of only $10, $5 or even $2 per student.
Too many kids who would thrive in after-school music, science or theater activities — and have brighter futures as a result — simply can’t afford to participate. They need our help and for them, we have to do better.
It’s no surprise that there is a direct correlation between the median household income within a school district, and the level of tax credit support those districts receive — and we’re fortunate that many Phoenix residents support their local schools.
But for those who want to help a school in need — even if it sits in a different neighborhood — information about who needs help the most isn’t readily available. And some districts with the tightest budgets don’t even have a way to accept contributions online.
I sought to fix both of these problems so that together, we can give Phoenix schools a boost.
We worked directly with schools and superintendents to launch an interactive website that shows how much each school district receives and highlights where contributions are needed the most. On that website — phoenix.gov/education/SchoolTax/index.html — Arizonans can navigate an easy-to-read color-coded map of our school districts as well as data that compares district finances.
We are also breaking down technological barriers by helping the schools that need it build the capacity to accept donations online. That’s critical if we want to make it as easy as possible for those willing to give.
Supporting a local school is easy. Individuals can donate and get that dollar-for-dollar tax credit for up to $200, and for jointly-filing couples, that limit goes up to $400.
My wife Nicole and I make these donations, and I hope you’ll join us. If you have school-aged kids, support their school. If you don’t, I encourage you lend a hand to a school in need.
Every Phoenix child deserves a quality education, and our city’s own economic future depends on their success.
• Greg Stanton was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2011