GCU employees embrace K-12 support
Story by Janie Magruder
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
When Dr. Melanie Logue joined Grand Canyon University in January as program chair of the new doctor of nursing practice, she didn’t hesitate to sign up for Canyon’s Donation to Education.
The program let Logue designate part of her state tax liability to support Gateway Academy, a private school in Scottsdale that helps children develop their individual strengths. As the mother of a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, that learning philosophy was important to her.
“Seeing the struggles my son has had personally, I thought this would be a great way to support other children with Asperger’s,” Logue said.
Logue isn’t alone in her support of Canyon’s Donation to Education, launched 15 months ago by Randy Bellah, program director in GCU’s Strategic Educational Alliances. To date, nearly $500,000 has been pledged by an estimated 550 GCU employees and their spouses to Arizona tax-credit programs that benefit K-12 schools.
The donations help pay for private-school tuition for families who otherwise couldn’t afford it, and they are used by public school districts and public charter schools facing budget cuts to bolster extracurricular activities.
Bellah said most employees have chosen the payroll option, in which money that normally would be withheld from their paychecks to pay Arizona income taxes is redirected to School Choice Arizona Inc. The Chandler-based state tax organization disburses the funds to families for private-school scholarships.
If an employee doesn’t designate a specific private school — and most don’t — the funds go to one of GCU’s private school partners, he said.
“It is so easy that many employees forget they were even involved until they receive their receipt at the end of the year showing how much they contributed,” Bellah said.
Employees choosing to support public and charter schools do not use the GCU payroll system, he noted. Rather, the tax credit is on the individual’s state income tax filing.
Logue claims a tax credit to support the music program at her son’s public school, Sandra Day O’Connor High in Phoenix.
“I’m sold,” she said about Canyon’s Donation to Education. “The program gives me all the control in choosing whom I want to support.”
Anna Faith Smith, assistant dean in the College of Theology, directs her tax dollars to support her nieces and nephews at Phoenix Christian Preparatory School and Gilbert Christian High. In the past, she has claimed state tax credits to benefit her neighborhood school, Village Meadows Elementary in the Deer Valley School District.
“My husband was an elementary school teacher, and so I just know how much teachers spend their own personal money on classroom supplies and books,” Smith said.
Betty H. Fairfax High in the Phoenix Union High School District is among GCU’s Participants in Learning, Leading and Serving that receive tax-credit support. Fairfax Principal Dr. Zachary Muñoz said the funds are used for everything from buses and sports equipment to tutoring and educational tours.
The funds have helped send Fairfax’s prize-winning robotics team and its spirit line to out-of-state competitions, and they have been used to keep open facilities in the summer so students can use them and for various enrichment programs.
“These after-school programs change lives by building character, deepening friendships and lifting self-esteem,” Bellah said.
The tax-credit program is popular among the school’s families, Muñoz said.
“Our parents know that they’re getting a straight credit on their taxes, and that’s very sellable,” he said.
At Phoenix Christian Preparatory School, a part of GCU’s Canyon Christian Schools Consortium, GCU’s employee contributions give students opportunities to start investing their talents and hearts in fulfilling their purpose in life, said Karen Boyce, the school’s chief operating officer.
“We can’t attach education to a dollar, we have to attach education to a life, and these donations give our families opportunities to do that,” Boyce said.
The program enables the west Phoenix campus, which has preschool through 12th grade, to bring children and families to Christ, she said. Nearly one-third of its students receive some tuition assistance.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” Boyce said. “I feel it’s God’s provision for Christian education, and it’s only going to continue and grow in the years ahead.”
Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.