Choosing the right education for your children is an incredibly difficult task and it is even more of a burden when you feel you can’t afford the option that may be best for your child. I personally experienced both public and private schooling. No, my parents weren’t rich. My sisters and I were fortunate to have had an anonymous donor for a period of time. That, of course, is not the case for most families. However, through Tax Credit Scholarships there are options for you!
Did you know you may be able to choose your child’s school regardless of district or affordability? Tax Credit Scholarships allow eligible students to choose among a list of accredited private schools. Oklahoma is one of 16 states that sponsor a Tax Credit Scholarship program. The Tax Credit Scholarship allows individuals and corporations to choose to direct a portion of their state tax obligation to the private not-for-profit scholarship granting organizations (SGO). The scholarship is used to pay private school tuition, fees and other related expenses.
“This program is a huge opportunity to allow more educational choice for our children,” said Rob Sellers, executive director of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund.
There are several SGOs in Oklahoma providing scholarships to Oklahoma K-12 students to attend accredited private schools in the state. More than 80 accredited K-12 private schools are represented. The Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF) is one of the SGOs and represents 49 schools. Sellers shared the benefits of Tax Credit Scholarships for families, donors, school leaders and tax payers.
So, why are tax credit scholarships important to you?
If you are a parent, it will help you afford to send your child to an accredited private K-12 school that you may otherwise have not been able to even consider. Once a student has received a scholarship, that student remains eligible until high school graduation or age 21.
“A family has the primary responsibility to provide the education of their children,” Sellers said. “All schools are not the same. One size doesn't always fit all. Many times public schools more than meet those needs. Sometimes, a private school is a better fit for an individual child. Only the parents really know which is best.”
If you are a member school education leader, it will allow more families to consider attending your school. Tax credit scholarships are a “hand-up” and not a “hand-out”. Sellers tells us the scholarships are providing lower-income families with much needed help to afford private schools to help their children excel in the classroom and in life.
The Opportunity Scholarship Fund reports that 57 percent of scholarships benefitted students eligible for free or reduced lunches, and more than 86 percent of the grants are to families at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
If you are a donor, it will offer you generous state tax credits as you help your favorite schools.
Sellers explained the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act allows individuals and businesses to claim a state tax credit for contributions. Donations can be designated to a specific private school, but not to a specific student or individual. The donations also qualify for a federal charitable contribution deduction for those taxpayers that itemize their deductions. In many cases, the net cost to donors will approach zero.
If you are a taxpayer, it will save you money. Other states have similar tax credit scholarship programs like Oklahoma. For example, in Florida a state government study concluded that for every $1 spent on the tax credit program, Florida taxpayers saved an estimated $1.49.
“We think the savings in Oklahoma are larger,” Sellers said.
Sellers expressed everyone wins – and no one loses – when tax credit scholarships are used effectively to provide quality education in Oklahoma.
“Donors are rewarded with generous tax benefits, parents have a better choice of schools for their children, school leaders are better able to offer educational opportunity,” he said, “and taxpayers are given a more efficient use of their tax dollars without an adverse effect on public schools.”
Most importantly, students in Oklahoma are better able to attend a school that best suits their educational needs and helps them to achieve the maximum potential.
Is your student eligible? Are you interested in applying for a scholarship or becoming a donor? To answer these questions and learn more about the tax scholarship program in Oklahoma, go to www.osfkids.org. You can find a member school that participates in the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, view descriptions, testimonials, background information and even use a tax benefit calculator.