Hello IBE Families:
We have been fielding numerous calls over the last few weeks as how the new "normal" for private school education will look when it comes to tax credit scholarships. As we all know, it is very difficult to make plans when the new “normal” changes hourly. Governor Ducey presented a plan on July 23, 2020, entitled Open For Learning.
We also received an email from the Arizona Department of Revenue regarding Governor Ducey’s Executive Order dated June 24, 2020:
On June 24, 2020 Governor Ducey issued Executive Order EO 2020-41 which outlined requirements for school districts and charter schools interested in adopting hybrid and distance learning options for the 2020/21 school year. Executive Order EO 2020-44 issued by Governor Ducey on June 29, 2020 outlined the school in-person and distance learning start dates for the 2020/21 school year. We want to provide some guidance in response to questions we have received recently regarding whether awarding School Tuition Organization (STO) scholarships will be allowable to private schools offering hybrid and distance learning instruction in the 2020/21 academic year.
A.R.S. §§ 43-1503 and 43-1603 require STOs to award scholarships to qualifying private schools. Qualified private schools are defined in A.R.S. §§ 43-1501 and 43-1601. A.R.S. §15-802(G)(3) requires private schools to provide academic instruction ‘for at least the same number of days and hours each year as a public school’. One of the requirements listed in the June 24, 2020 Executive Order is that while offering hybrid and distance learning options, the school district or charter school are to continue operating for the required 180 days of instruction. Also note that in the June 29, 2020 Executive Order, the Arizona Department of Education has been directed to conduct an analysis regarding the number of school days required for the 2020/21 school year.
We believe STO scholarships for students to attend qualifying private schools utilizing hybrid options of instruction would be permissible (provided that all other STO eligibility criteria are also met) during the 2020/21 academic year.
Please remember that a student must be enrolled in the private school full-time in order to be eligible for an STO scholarship. If a student disenrolls from a private school, the STO scholarship prerequisites will start again when the student re enrolls in a private school. If a student separates from the private school to homeschool for a semester or the year, the student will be required to meet the applicable STO scholarship prerequisites in order to be eligible for an STO scholarship when they return to private school.
For additional information on the Governor’s Executive Order EO 2020-41, you may refer to the AZCares Flexibility and Funding for Schools and Families document.
As we shared with you back in March, we know things are continually evolving and more questions will arise over the coming months. On behalf of the Arizona Department of Revenue, we again thank you for your patience, understanding, and cooperation as we continue to navigate this public health situation.
Office of Economic
Research & Analysis
To answer a few more questions that have parents wondering about this school year:
- Will children lose their PLUS/Switcher eligibility if they homeschool for the 1st semester? YES! Whenever a child leaves their private school for any reason or for any amount of time, their tax credit scholarships eligibility starts over. At this time, homeschooling is not an eligibility option for PLUS/Switcher or even Corporate Low-Income. Think very carefully before you decide to homeschool for the 1st semester of the 2020-2021 academic year as your child may never be able to obtain PLUS/Switcher eligibility again.
- Are students who complete online work at a faster pace than in-person students still meeting the 180 days of instruction rule? Yes, as long as the curriculum standards are the same. The online schooling by its very nature allows for more of an “at your own pace” atmosphere. As long as the curriculum is the same, and that meets the academic instruction requirements as listed in the AZDOR email above, then those students are still eligible to be awarded tax credit scholarships.
- If a private school is starting either before or after whatever date the Governor deems safe, can we still receive tax credit scholarships? Yes, as long as the private school meets the 180 day of academic instruction requirement. If the 180 day requirement changes for public schools, it will be the same for private schools.
- If a student moves from one private school to another private school, will all of their awarded scholarships follow them? All Financial Need Based Scholarships (Individual, PLUS/Switcher, Corporate Low-Income) as well as any Disabled/Displaced Scholarships will not follow the student as those were typically awarded with funds that specific school received. All Recommended Fund Scholarships will follow the student.