More than forty New Hampshire companies donated a total of almost $200,000 this year to fund scholarships to help needy children attend better schools.
The Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) received more than 900 applications for scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year and more than $130,000 in contributions from businesses. NEO Executive Director Kate Baker spent months before the June 15 deadline for both donations and scholarship applications beating the streets, visiting businesses to let them know how they could help a child, improve education, and earn up to 85% tax credit on their state taxes for it.
“The program was able to raise four times as much money this year as it did last,” said Ms. Baker. “That’s so many more children we will be able to help get make the leap into better educational settings.”
NEO is a scholarship-granting organization that helps parents who are struggling to provide their children with a great education get over the financial hurdles that keep them from reaching their goals. “That’s why we use the term Bridge Scholarships,” said Ms. Baker. “We don’t pay 100% of the tuition expenses. Many families are working very hard to find and get a quality education for their children, but they need a little help to bridge the gap that’s keeping their kids from moving forward.”
Families must meet certain low to moderate-income criteria to apply for tuition scholarships. Eighty-percent of the children NEO has helped were eligible for the free/reduced priced lunch program in their public schools.
Ms. Baker says business owners have been enthusiastic about the chance to make such a direct difference in creating a better future for their communities and their state. The scholarships are an immediate way to impact a child’s education. A business that donates by the deadline can see their impact immediately – children attending schools their parents have chosen for them and escaping from failing schools or schools that did not meet their needs or where they were ridiculed or bullied.
Parents are equally enthusiastic, says Ms. Baker. “They say things like, ‘No more exposure to bullying or drugs, it’s a very stimulating environment at my daughter’s new school, my son gets individualized, accelerated instruction, the new school has reversed the decline in my son’s grades and attitude, my daughter has been able to pursue her talent for languages.’ It’s so exciting hearing this from parents.”
Scholarships are also available to help parents pay for homeschooling materials or online homeschool courses, something unique to the New Hampshire program.
Studies show, said Ms. Baker, that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma.
More than half of New Hampshire’s low-income children attending public schools are not reading proficiently, Ms. Baker points out, “and the statistics are far worse for minority children.”
The very first business to contribute to the NEO Bridge Scholarship Fund was Turbocam International, based in Barrington, with a donation of $50,000. Turbocam supports and has built several schools in Nepal, India, and Ghana and was thrilled to find an opportunity to help children in their home state of New Hampshire.
H. T. Turner Group is another satisfied contributor to the scholarship fund. Founder & President Harold Turner said, “I had the pleasure of meeting Kate [Baker] and was able to put $10,000 into the program, most of which is offset against the Turner Group’s NH BPT/BET tax payments. I have never been able to help so many children for such a small net out-of-pocket cost to our company as I have in this program.”
That’s just two of the more than forty companies that are helping New Hampshire parents exercise choice in education for their children.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says Ms. Baker. “Studies show it encourages area public schools to improve, it empowers businesses to directly impact the education so vital to their future success, it empowers parents – the people who know their children best – to make good education choices for their children. Above all, it changes children’s lives and futures for the better.”
Businesses wishing to invest in education and earn tax credits for their contribution can contact Executive Director Kate Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents who need help finding better school choices for their children can get information by calling 603-755-6751.