New Fine Arts Fund Can Reduce Dropout Rate

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In any relationship, having something to look forward to can be vital in keeping a partnership alive and thriving.

For a married couple this might be an event as simple as a favorite weekly television program, a quiet game of cards shared at the end of the day, or as elaborate as a milestone anniversary vacation or a family reunion.

But no matter how large or small, the anticipation of something worthwhile and satisfying acts as a social glue to keep partners together.

There is a partnership in Arizona that continues to fail at a higher rate than almost anyplace else in the nation. It's the relationship between our children and their education. Arizona is frequently cited as having one of the highest high school dropout rates in the country. Comparative data involving high school dropout rates among the 50 states is often debated, but there is no doubt that Arizona is leaving far too many children behind.

When a student drops out of high school, they have lost all hope of anything good ever coming from their relationship with the school or educators.

Countless studies have shown that one of the best ways to help strengthen this relationship is to give students something that helps them feel connected -- something they look forward to that lets them experience fulfillment and a sense of belonging. This is most often achieved through extracurricular activities such as sports, music, art and drama.

Unfortunately for our children, Arizona also ranks among the worst in the nation in education funding. So these adhesive programs -- especially performing and creative arts -- are often the first to be cut back or eliminated altogether.

This was shamefully apparent in 2005 when the Pine-Strawberry School District was forced to decimate its music programs when faced with a $138,000 budget shortfall.

While problems with education funding may seem insurmountable, there is one powerful tool residents have been using in recent years to help strengthen extracurricular activities and school retention rates in Rim Country. It's called the Credit For Kids Arizona tax credit program.

In 1997, the Arizona State Legislature passed a law allowing residents to deduct, as a tax credit, money given to schools for extracurricular activities.

This year, any household that pays Arizona taxes can donate up to $400 for married taxpayers filing jointly, or $200 for individual taxpayers. Since it's a tax credit, you get your money back by claiming the same amount, dollar-for-dollar, as a tax credit when filing your state tax return. You can even select what school or program you'd like the money to benefit.

This year, the Payson School District has established a Fine Arts Fund for major acquisitions and co-curricular activities in music, drama and art in Payson schools.

We commend the district for creating this special fund, which also acknowledges the importance of these programs -- not only to the students, but to our community and society as a whole.

In the coming weeks, the Roundup will launch a large-scale campaign to complement the efforts of the district and other local businesses, such as Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty, Pioneer Title Agency and Stockmen's Bank, who are all helping to promote this important tax credit.

If you haven't already received the tax credit donation form in the mail, you'll find it on the upcoming full-page notices in the Roundup. You can also get the form and more information by calling the district office at (928) 474-2070. In Pine-Strawberry call (928) 476-3283.

Your donation will make a huge difference in the lives of our children right here in the Payson area, and it won't cost you a dime.

Investing in our children is good news for all of us. So please take a moment and send your donation before Dec. 31. Our Rim Country schools welcome any amount, and you don't need to live within the district boundaries or have children in school.

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