By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
In 2006, the state legislature passed the Educational Opportunities Act to create Iowa’s first school choice program. The formation of this program allows people from throughout the state to give money to School Tuition Organizations (STOs), receive a 65 percent tax credit, and enables STOs to provide tuition grants. The funding allows students to attend accredited, nonpublic schools in the state.
Two STOs exist in the Diocese of Davenport: STO of Southeast Iowa (which covers Catholic schools outside Scott County) and the Mississippi Valley STO (which covers Catholic schools in Scott County).
Steve Roling, executive director of STO of Southeast Iowa, said the maximum amount it can collect in the 2015 calendar year is $1,214,269. A good portion has been raised, he noted.
If the cap is reached for all schools, Roling said donors have the option of getting a refund or donating the money to another STO. Since its beginning, the Southeast Iowa STO has reached its goal all but one time: “the year the stock market crashed.” For the 2015-16 school year, the Southeast Iowa STO gave assistance to 639 students.
Chad Steimle, principal at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport, said the Mississippi Valley STO makes Catholic school education affordable for middle class families and for larger families.
The Mississippi Valley STO can accept gifts up to $1,110,172, said its representative, Elizabeth King Powers. So far $400,000 has been raised, she said. From late November into December the donations pick up as people start thinking about taxes. If additional donations come in after the goal is reached, donors will be referred to another STO in the state. The Mississippi Valley STO has reached its goal every year since the beginning. For the current school year, 655 students received tuition assistance for Scott County Catholic schools.
Basic eligibility for an STO grant is the same across all Iowa STOs, Roling said. However, “each STO may have additional stricter qualifications.” The method for distributing funds among qualifying students varies by STO. “We are extremely thankful for our generous donors,” Roling added.
For more information on Southeast Iowa STO contact Roling at (563) 391-1845 (voice) or (563) 391-5441 (fax) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Mississippi Valley STO contact King Powers at (563) 326-5313, x 228 or email@example.com.