It's time to give money to a public school — $200 for an individual, $400 for a couple — and get 100 percent of it back at tax time. It won't cost you a penny. It's a tax credit
, meaning you deduct it from the total you owe the state. If, for example, you do your taxes and find you owe the state $950, subtract your tax credit from that amount, and that's how much you'll pay. If you gave $400, you'll only pay $550. See? No cost to you.
So, who can you give the money to?
Any district or charter school. You can even divvy your credit up among a number of schools.
What is the money used for?
Schools can only use it for extracurricular or character education programs, not for classroom-based education. I don't much like that restriction, but that's the way the law was written. Still, lots of important education and recreation happens in schools outside the classroom—sports, music, art, science, field trips, clubs. Especially in schools with lots of children from low income families, the donations can be the difference between the kids participating or being left out.
How do you give?
Most school districts have a link on their website's home page which has all the information you need. You can pay online with a credit card or download a form and mail in a check.
How do you choose the school or schools to give your money to?
The answer is probably easy for people whose children are in school. For everyone else, my suggestion is, give it to school with lots of low income students. If parents and community members pay little or no state taxes because they don't make much money, they can't take advantage of the credit, which means their schools don't get a whole lot of this extra money, while schools in more affluent areas get many times more.
If you want to give to Tucson Unified, which has plenty of schools with low income students, here's where to start
. The district even supplies a list of the 25 schools that got the least money
last year—between $5.58 and $20.22 per student. The district average was $54.09.
Schools in Sunnyside Unified are also a good choice. Its schools have anywhere from 70 to 94 percent of their students on free or reduced lunch, so they all can use the financial boost. Here's the Sunnyside tax credit page
: First, you can earmark the money you give to be used for a specific child, your own or someone else's. Second, though I recommend you give your tax credit money before the end of the year, you actually can give all the way to tax day, April 17, 2018, and still take it off of your 2017 taxes. But don't wait! Give it now so schools know how much they're getting. Begin the new year with that warm feeling you get when you know you helped out some school kids.