By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Since 2006, School Tuition Organizations (STOs) in Iowa have helped some families afford a Catholic education for their children.
Steve Roling, executive director of the School Tuition Organization of Southeast Iowa, said statewide the funding amount allowed by the State of Iowa has slowly grown, but is still not enough to fund everyone who needs assistance. The first year, 2006, was an abbreviated year with a cap of $2.5 million. Over the years it the cap has grown to $12 million. But that rate hasn’t changed in several years, he noted.
Trish Wilger, executive director of Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, said Iowa ACE supports parental choice in education as a pathway to academic success. “The savings these programs create at the state level doesn’t usually draw much attention. As our legislators deal with educational funding, it’s important that they — and their constituents — understand the fiscal benefits of education choice.”
There are 11 STOs in the state for various private schools — including Catholic schools. Two STOs operate in the Diocese of Davenport: STO of Southeast Iowa and Mississippi Valley STO.
Roling said each STO in the state has a cap, the amount allowed to be donated per calendar year. Within each STO, the cap per school is based on the total amount allowed to be raised and the number of students in each school. Donors can specify a school to be credited or donate to the STO in general. Individual schools, due to the formula, have limits as well.
Money can be donated to STOs by individuals, LLCs, Subchapter S corps and C corps. There are no limits to individual gifts. Gifts can be made by check, credit card, stock, IRAs and more. But once the STO limit has been met, money can no longer be taken.
Individual donors can get a 65 percent tax credit on the Iowa tax form. On the federal tax form, Roling said donors get a tax deduction, which reduces their taxable income.
Liz King Powers, executive director of the Mississippi Valley STO, gives an example. If a couple donates $1,000 to an STO, they receive an Iowa tax credit certificate worth $650. In addition, they can claim a $1,000 donation on their federal tax return, which could save $350 in federal tax. The federal level varies, based on the individual/couple’s tax bracket.
After Jan. 1, Roling said families can begin to apply for STO grants. A tax return is required along with an STO application. Deadline to apply is tax day, or April 18 this year. Funds granted will be for the 2017-18 school year.
Roling said each STO committee reviews the applications. The first thing committee members do is to ensure the families meet all the criteria. Families must reside in the state of Iowa, students must be age 5 by September and the family must be at or below three times the federal poverty level.
After reviewing applications, the committee sees how much funding is needed and makes decisions. “There isn’t enough to cover every student for their total amount,” Roling said.
At Notre Dame Catholic Schools in Burlington, about 78 percent of what is needed is distributed. At Regina Catholic Schools in Iowa City, the STO covers about 55 percent.
Letters are sent to each school about grant recipients and amounts. The individual schools contact the families.
Roling said families needing assistance beyond what the STO provides are encouraged to check with their school’s financial aid or business office.
For information on STO of Southeast Iowa visit http://stoseiowa.org or contact Roling at (563) 391-1845 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Mississippi Valley STO visit www. mvsto.org or contact Liz King Powers at (563) 326-5313, ext. 228 or email Elizabeth.email@example.com.
STOs in the Diocese of Davenport
Two School Tuition Organizations serve the Diocese of Davenport:
STO of Southeast Iowa includes Notre Dame Catholic Schools in Burlington, Prince of Peace Catholic Schools in Clinton, St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt, Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City, Keokuk Catholic Schools in Keokuk, Holy Trinity Catholic Schools in Lee County (Fort Madison, St. Paul and West Point), Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School in Muscatine, Seton Catholic School in Ottumwa and St. James Catholic School in Washington.
For 2017, STO of Southeast Iowa has 2,324 students and can take contributions totalling a maximum of $821,467.
Mississippi Valley STO includes Lourdes Catholic School and Rivermont Collegiate, both in Bettendorf, and All Saints Catholic School, Assumption High School, John F. Kennedy Catholic School and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport.
For 2017, Mississippi Valley STO has 1,979 students and can take contributions totalling a maximum of $699,520.