Martinez: Study shows which STOs help underprivileged students - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Martinez: Study shows which STOs help underprivileged students

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Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 7:02 am | Updated: 10:06 am, Mon Jun 18, 2012.

Fifteen years ago, the Arizona lawmakers crafted legislation making possible School Tuition Organizations. The goal was to make a private school education more accessible to all Arizona families. It seemed like an ideal situation. Individuals and businesses that donated to these organizations received tax credits that reduced their state tax bill by the amount donated. Deserving kids from poor and working class families would receive scholarships giving them the type of private school education traditionally reserved for the well-to-do.

It didn’t always work out that way. While many STOs lived up to the ideals of helping families in poor and working class neighborhoods, some did not. Thanks to some fine Arizona investigative reports, problems were discovered. Bad actors were identified. The public and our lawmakers took notice. Reporting requirements were put in place ensuring that donors and the public are made more aware of STOs that fall short.

That’s why Hispanic Council for Reform and Education (HCREO) commissioned a landmark study. We ranked Arizona STOs with more than $100,000 in donations dealing with factors such as overhead costs, and the percentage of scholarships going to poor and working class students.

We want to increase awareness. HCREO travelled the state and found far too few poor and working class parents knew about scholarships available for their children. We’ve hosted community meetings; some of them drew hundreds of people.

Our second goal is to make the general public and potential donors aware of scholarship programs that truly serve poor and working class families. We want to make sure the donations flow to scholarship programs that serve the community as opposed to serving a select few.

We want to make sure deserving kids like Jorge Solis, the son of a landscaper, can continue to attend Glendale Christian Academy. We want to make sure Max Ashton, who is visually impaired, can continue to attend Brophy College Prep and make use of computer technology that allows him to overcome his challenges. And, we want to make sure that when corporations make contributions with the intent of supporting low-income and/or minority communities that the money does just that.

Why should you care? With respect to our public schools, not all of them make the grade. Far too often those schools are in less affluent neighborhoods. Concerned parents in these neighborhoods deserve options. Their children deserve a way out. The method is in place to make this happen; it’s just a matter of getting the donations to the STOs that do it right. For the complete list of STOs that are showing fidelity to the mission of helping the underprivileged in Arizona go to http://evtnow.com/31p online.

For more information call (602) 316-9732 or visit www.hcreo.com.

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