On December 14, 2016, Jenny Miller from Arizona Private Education Scholarship Fund, Inc. (APESF) spoke at Life Development Institute’s (LDI) monthly Speaker Series.

LDI provides education for teens and young adults with learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and other similar social and learning differences.  With 35 years of experience, LDI has three program options for students, which include the Academy of Lifelong Learning Day High School, the Emerging Leaders Summer Academy, and the Residential Program for both high school and post-secondary education.  For Arizona high school students, the opportunities at LDI may be afforded through the Arizona State School Tuition Organization (STO) scholarship program, which was the focus of discussion for Jenny Miller as APESF exists as an Arizona STO.

Jenny Miller joined APESF in September of 2012 as the operations director. Her responsibilities include managing all financial aspects of the organization, compliance and operations, school relations and correspondence with our donors and families.  During her session, Jenny discussed what is meant by a tax credit, the donation process, how it relates to the STO program, the different scholarships and corresponding qualifications, and ways to make the most out of this opportunity.  To begin, Arizona offers taxpayers the ability to make contributions to schools and non-profit organizations that reduce the amount of tax owed to the state or increase the amount of the taxpayer’s refund, dollar-for-dollar.  There is essentially no net cost to the donor, and these tax-credit donations provide students with the opportunity to receive private education K – 12 in Arizona.

Regarding the donation process, Jenny continued that first one should determine how much will be owed to the state of Arizona as a tax at the end of the year.  This requires that one realizes what amount has already been paid through withholding or similar programs.  Next, deciding how much to donate rests upon realization of maximum allowed credits along with an understanding tax liability.  Then, persons can make a tax-credit donation to an STO.  Finally, persons should save receipts and claim the credit by filing the correct Arizona tax forms.  

For a state tax credit, persons may donate at any time during the tax year for which the claim is to be taken or from January 1st to April 15th of following year.  If a federal tax credit is also sought, then the credit should be claimed by December 31st during the year for which one wishes to claim the deduction.  It is also possible to determine an approximate tax liability by looking at the previous year’s taxes.  Please know that if you receive a refund, this amount is determined by how much you pay over your tax liability.  This means you can still take a tax-credit and receive an even higher refund.  This means one essentially “double pays” on tax liability and increases the refund, which provides one with the opportunity to direct where tax dollars are spent.  Furthermore, one can recommend a specific school or student with the donation as long as the donation does not benefit a dependent, become a condition of contribution, nor collude with someone else to direct benefit each other’s dependent.

In relation to the STO program, tax-credit dollars are used to fund private education for Arizona students K – 12.  Students may qualify for anywhere from 1 to 4 scholarship types, which are as follows:

  • Original: No prerequisites
  • Overflow: Students must be switching from public school, be in kindergarten, be a military dependent, or be a corporate recipient in a previous school year.
  • Low-Income: Students must meet income guidelines and be switching from public school, be in kindergarten, be a military dependent, or be a scholarship recipient in a previous school year.
  • Disabled-Displaced: Students must have an IEP, MET, or 504 Plan from an AZ public or charter school, or students must have been in AZ foster care at some point in time.

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, students and families will need to apply with various STOs throughout the state and work with the private school during this process.  When applying to various STOs, please be sure to verify if they will work with other STOs for scholarship donations.  Additionally, it is also important to note that all awards are one-time awards and not indicators of future awards.  Further, a student may receive one scholarship, multiple, or possibly none depending on funding.  

At LDI, students may receive scholarships through a number of STOs including APESF and Life Development Institute Education Fund (LDIEF).  

For more information about STO scholarships or to make a donation, please call 623-773-2774.  

For more information about Life Development Institute, please visit www.discoverldi.com or call (623) 773-1545.