By Celine Klosterman
Kerry Hopper said she appreciates being able to send her daughter, Kennedy, to a school with a “family setting” and emphasis on morals.
But without School Tuition Organization (STO) grants, the fifth-grader may not have been able to attend Notre Dame Elementary in Burlington for the past several years, Hopper said.
“It’s a godsend,” she said of the assistance. To afford tuition without it, the Notre Dame daycare director said she or her husband would have to find part-time work in addition to their current jobs.
Making Catholic education more attainable for students like Kennedy is the goal of many Iowa taxpayers who donate to an STO. For the upcoming school year, they helped 988 students attend parochial schools in the Diocese of Davenport.
This is the fourth year grants have been awarded since the Iowa legislature passed the Educational Opportunities Act in 2006, which let individuals earn a 65 percent tax credit on their gifts to STOs. The law now allows a quarter of available tax credits to go to corporations, which also can earn a 65 percent tax credit on their donations.
The state capped the total amount of tax credits given to STO donors in 2009 at $7.5 million.
Grant recipients must earn less than three times the federal poverty level.
Here are details about grants awarded through the two STOs in the diocese:
STO of Southeast Iowa (Catholic schools outside Scott County)
• Number of students awarded grants for 2010-11 school year: 512
• Number of applications received for grants: 548, representing 992 students
• Number of applicants qualified: 630
• Total amount of grants given: $761,281
• Total amount taxpayers donated to the STO: $773,085
• Total amount donors received in tax credits: $502,505
Source: Steve Roling, STO of Southeast Iowa president
Mississippi Valley STO (Scott County Catholic schools)
• Number of students awarded STO grants for 2010-11 school year: 476
• Number of applications received for grants: 347, representing 606 students
• Total amount of grants given: about $555,000
• Total amount taxpayers donated to the STO: $613,389
• Total amount donors received in tax credits: $398,702.85
Source: Liz King, MVSTO program coordinator
Note: 54 students who did not qualify for the Mississippi Valley STO received financial assistance through the Scott County Catholic schools’ Family Tuition Plan.
To donate to the STO of Southeast Iowa, visit www.stoseiowa.org or contact Steve Roling at 246 Fifth Ave. S., Suite 103, Clinton, IA, 52732, for a contribution form.
To donate to the Mississippi Valley STO, visit www.mvsto.org/togive.html.
Donations for the 2010 tax year are due Dec. 31. Taxpayers are encouraged to give earlier to ensure the amount of state-allotted tax credits for their STO doesn’t run out before donors make their gift.