GCU prof finds allocating taxes can elevate children
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Jena Akard really wanted her daughter to go to private Christian school so the fifth grader could be surrounded by her faith five days a week, not just nights and weekends at home.
“Then we looked at the cost,” said Jena Akard, an Assistant Professor in Grand Canyon University College of Education.
She was discouraged, especially since family’s challenges with its small business impacted its finances during the pandemic.
But then Akard attended an employee meeting on how Arizona’s tax system allows parents who otherwise couldn’t send their child to private school to make it happen.
She learned that Grand Canyon University and Grand Canyon Education employees can direct state taxes they owe to School Choice Arizona to help families pay for private school education. It costs nothing, merely directing the government where to send their tax dollars – to a specific student, if they wish.
“I could even ask my neighbors,” Akard said.
Akard is a perfect example of what the program can accomplish.
GCU’s annual drive is underway to publicize and encourage it through its Allocate to Elevate initiative, which set a $3.4 million goal for the pledge period that runs through April 15. In addition to School Choice Arizona, employees can choose to redirect their taxes to Habitat for Humanity, which GCU and GCE also support by supplying volunteers to help renovate and repair homes in the Canyon Corridor, or to public school extracurricular programs to help kindergarten through 12th grade students pay public school extracurricular fees.
“It is a tremendous opportunity and we are blessed to have it,” said Dr. Tacy Ashby, Senior Vice President of K12 Educational Development. “I love how employees can support fellow employees.”
After hearing about the option, Jena and Chris Akard are in the process of securing enough support to be able to minimize the cost of sending their daughter Madison to Paradise Valley Christian Preparatory.
Madison joined the school this fall, and the atmosphere of a Christian education has been amazing to her mom.
“Madison loves wearing a uniform, and she comes home sharing and singing Bible verses,” she said. “We are thrilled she is learning about Jesus and building her relationship with Him at school.”
Akard credited an employee meeting for finding out about the tax redirection and making it easier to understand.
GCU officials had been conducting similar informational meetings for seven private schools that the University assists in publicizing the tax credit options to parents via christianschoolsaz.com.
“When they enroll students, we are helping the schools, and many parents find out they don’t have to pay anything,” Ashby said. “So, we thought, ‘We should open it up to our employees and ask them if they have thought of using this.’”
Allocate to Elevate contributions have continued to grow each year. As of the end of August, employees had pledged $18,878,276.
“This is going to be an incredible year. People are already contacting me about getting their pledges in early, and employees are realizing what a blessing this program is,” said Sheila Jones, Director of Academic Alliances. “I am proud to be a part of something so special, which blesses countless families throughout Arizona and our own Canyon Corridor.”
This year’s campaign runs until April 15, 2022, but employees can pledge all year.
Of last year’s more than $3.4 million pledge, nearly 60% was to School Choice Arizona and roughly 36% to Habitat.
Redirecting taxes for two of those options — Habitat for Humanity and School Choice Arizona — can be done through payroll, while employees are encouraged to contribute to public school extracurricular programs on their own and upload their receipt on a simplified pledge form on the GCU/GCE Intranet.
Contact: [email protected], 602-247-4000
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.