Originally Published: November 23, 2009 3:07 p.m.
"I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for in the patterns of music and all arts are the keys to learning." -- Plato, philosopher
When it comes to funding education, Arizona ranks 49th in the nation -- almost dead last. And for many Quad-city parents, teachers and administrators, this dubious honor is not only discouraging, but correcting it feels like an insurmountable challenge.
In 1997 the Arizona State Legislature passed a law that gave residents a useful weapon in this ongoing funding war. It's called the Credit For Kids tax credit program. It doesn't strike at the heart of the problem, but it does provide a way for taxpayers to strengthen education without spending a dime of private money.
In essence, the law (A.R.S. 43-1089) allows residents to deduct, as a tax credit, money given to schools for extracurricular activities. It even lets them choose what school and what program the money will benefit.
Here's how it works: Any household that pays Arizona taxes may donate up to $400 for married taxpayers filing jointly, or $200 for individual taxpayers. Since it's a tax credit, residents get their money back by claiming the same amount, dollar-for-dollar, when filing their state tax return.
How do extracurricular activities help strengthen education?
Numerous studies throughout the United States and abroad indicate that students involved in extracurricular programs like band and orchestra get better academic grades.
For example, in a 1995 "College-bound Seniors" national report, students with coursework or experience in music performance scored significantly higher on the SAT college entrance test -- 51 points higher on the verbal and 39 points higher on the math -- than students with no arts participation. Students with four or more years of arts study scored 59 points higher on the verbal and 44 points higher on the math portions than students with no experience in the arts.
Another study, the Yamaha Program, showed that the reading level of first grade students with a single year of music was nearly one grade higher than their peers; those with two years of music scored at almost a third grade level; and some students scored as high as fourth and fifth grade levels.
Across the board, grade point averages and comprehension skills are all improved when students are involved in extracurricular activities like band, orchestra, art and drama.
If the tax credit program puts a tuba in the hands of a student, we've just significantly increased that child's chances for better grades and better college possibilities -- and it didn't cost us a dime.
This comes as no surprise for Prescott area educators who have these students in their classrooms throughout the year.
Last year, taxpayers helped fund numerous field trips, after-school programs, admission to plays, concerts, parks, museums and nature camps, and valuable music, art and physical education programs.
As the Prescott Schools Web site states: "Simply put, tax credit donations make possible a wide range of learning opportunities that our children would not otherwise have. And you don't have to have a child in the school district to benefit from this tax credit."
There has never been a better time - or way - for you to help Prescott area schoolchildren. Your donation must be made before December 31st to apply to the current tax year. You can learn how to donate using the local links below.
One tuba can change the life of a child forever. Please take advantage of the Arizona School Tax Credit this year.