Tuition tax credit law failing needy students
Arizona Republic
Dec. 7, 2005

Arizona's tuition tax credit law was never about helping poor kids go to private school. It was about passing a backdoor voucher system to please those who see public schools as evil. Now the flaws in the law are showing, at the expense of poor kids who want to go to private school.

The Catholic Tuition Organization of the Diocese of Phoenix, one of the biggest and longest-running tuition groups, says donations are flat. That's because parents would rather donate to the tuition groups created since the tax credit law went into effect in 1997.

Here's the reason: The Catholics give money to the poorest and neediest kids first. The other groups let donors earmark the money to a specific student, regardless of financial need.

So, a bunch of middle- or upper-income kids can leapfrog over poor kids.

"It's really only human nature, honestly," says Karen Shepard, executive director of the group. People want to direct where their money goes, not trust some group.

The diocese group is still able to help the poorest of the poor, but is starting to feel the pinch in helping lower middle-class families.

And if the trend continues, the organization will be unable to help all its truly poor students, Shepard says.

The group is thinking about allowing donors to give money to specific students, regardless of need, but the Catholic part of its name would make it tough. Jesus taught to give to the neediest.

The tuition tax credit law doesn't have to follow that teaching.

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