Thursday, July 30, 2015

Where the Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship Money Goes

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 3:58 PM

click to enlarge screen-shot-privateschoolmap.jpg

This is a follow up to yesterday's post where I discussed the AZ Republic coverage of Tuition Tax Credits. The Republic's anchor article for the series has a terrific interactive map showing private schools around the state and how much tax credit money each gets in the form of scholarships for students. You can move around the map and resize it to look at schools in any area in the state. The graphic at the top of this post is a screen shot of the map's Tucson area, with an example of the information given for one school. It's not the real thing. If you want to use the interactive map, go to the Republic article.

The color of each dot indicates how much money a school receives in tuition tax credit scholarships. I made a list of the top two categories. Schools with red dots get over $1 million. Schools with dark orange dots get between $300,000 and $1 million. Here are the five red dot schools in order of money received.
Salpointe Catholic High School: 3,092,476.63
Pusch Ridge Christian Academy: 2,119,947.33
San Miguel Catholic High School: 1,372,303.94
Desert Christian Schools: 1,130,907.33
St John the Evangelist School: 1,006,454.60
All of them are religiously affiliated. Among the 16 schools with dark orange dots, only two are nonsectarian. [Note: The Gregory School was named St. Gregory's until recently. It's always been nonsectarian and changed its name to avoid confusion.] [Correction: The Gregory School was connected with the Episcopal Church until it separated in 1987.]
Santa Cruz Catholic School; 971,419.81
Tucson Hebrew Academy :876,273.80
The Gregory School: 845,407.76
St Ambrose Catholic School: 789,289.29
Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic School:723,504.59
Casas Christian School: 690,544.92
St Augustine Catholic High School: 652,422.21
Imago Dei Middle School: 637,396.00
Green Fields Country Day School: 627,263.59
St Elizabeth Ann Seton School: 589,792.63
St Cyril Catholic School: 475,511.09
St Michael's Parish Day School: 475,039.35
SS Peter & Paul Catholic School: 473,179.01
St Joseph Catholic School: 375,418.45
Calvary Chapel Christian School: 350,753.25
Immaculate Heart School: 316,679.88

If there was ever any question whether the majority of vouchers flow to students attending religious schools, this list should lay it to rest. In Arizona and across the country, between 70 and 80 percent of private schools are religiously affiliated, and since they tend to have larger enrollments than nonsectarian schools, the percentage of students attending religiously affiliated schools is even higher.

Two of the largest School Tuition Organizations are Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, run very profitably by Sen. Steve Yarbrough, and Catholic Education Arizona. Their names tell you which schools are going to get scholarship money from them.

If you think it's OK for the taxpayers to fund vouchers for religious schools, all this is fine with you. I think it's a terrible idea. So does the Arizona constitution, which states, "No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction." Arizona's Tuition Tax Credits and Education Savings Accounts skirt the constitution by either stopping the money before it actually makes it into the state coffers (Tax Credits) or taking the money out of the state coffers and into a separate account before it's used to pay for education (ESAs). The courts say both programs are OK constitutionally, but the question of whether taxpayers should foot the bill for religious education remains.

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