Category Archives: Education
What if you could scholarship a kid to Lincoln for free?
What if you could redirect half of your taxes to your kid’s school? You can! We’ll sort of. In Alabama there is something called the Alabama Accountability Act and it allows taxpayers with an Alabama Income Tax Liability to choose for themselves where their tax money goes! I know it sounds too good to be true and there are some hard parts for the schools but the bottom line for the taxpayer is easy: put your money in the general fund or in your local schools, your choice. Oh and if you are fortunate enough to be an AMT filer, this is cashflow positive for you, ask your accountant or tax preparer.
If you are interested in doing this, estimate your Alabama Income Tax Liability before the end of 2016 and go to
myalabamataxes.alabama.gov. There you will see a menu on the left that includes a Donate to an SGO option, it looks like this:
When you click Donate to an SGO you see a screen like this:
That screen shows that Alabamians can still donate up to $22 million more before the cap of $30 million is hit. It works like this: If you owe the state $1,000, you pay $500 using the screen above in calendar year 2016. Then, after you pay your $1,000 taxes in April of 2017 you will receive a $500 rebate from the state. It is cash flow neutral for the taxpayer and due to some rules, it is cash flow positive for Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) filers. Ask your tax professional about that part.
So there is no catch, no more paperwork, just this one screen and a month or two without your rebate check. If you owe $13,000 in income tax to Alabama your “donation” could scholarship a child. Imagine doing that while having it cost you nothing at all. Please. Take the time to do this.
Redirect your Alabama taxes to local schools legally
Last year I posted about this in December. This year I am a few months earlier because I am going to beat the drums on this one until everyone hears me! Here’s the simple truth of the matter: Alabama has a poor track record educating our kids. We have challenges on this front to be sure, we have a poor population without a tradition of educational advancement. We have a subculture, white people and non-whites too, that lacks a culture of academic achievement. Still, we spend less on education that most states, tie funding for schools to an antiquated property tax structure and struggle to re-zone our communities to match the patterns of population shifts. As a state, we have a big problem and poor track record of being able to solve that problem.
In Alabama we have a mix of public schools, private schools, independent schools, church schools and now charter schools. Public schools are funded by the Alabama Legislature and by local ad valorem taxes (ad valorem taxes mean that you have to pay a portion of the value of any real estate you own to the county each year). As a way to help fund schools that are trying something different in poor neighborhoods, the Alabama Legislature voted a few years ago to create a fund of up to $30 million dollars. Families with children zoned for a Title 1 school (that is a school with a high percentage of free lunch kids) can apply to one of several Scholarship Granting Organizations approved by the State for a scholarship to a competing private school.
This structure empowers the parents of kids living in or near poverty to do something about the difficult school environment in most Title 1 schools. Now, instead of moving across town, they can apply for a scholarship that will allow them to pay $6,000, $8,000 or $10,000 a year for elementary, middle or high school kid respectively to attend a private school. To me, this is a great way to try and see if those kids can do better in another environment, without having to be wealthy.
So, here is your task for today. Call your tax advisor and tell them that you want as much as the law allows to be redirected to one of the Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). There are two that support Lincoln Academy so please choose one of those. They are RocketSGO based in Huntsville and Scholarships for Kids (S4K) based in Birmingham. Either will work for our purposes. Your tax advisor will use the My Alabama Taxes website to enter the amount of your “donation”. It’s not really a donation since you were going to pay it to the general fund anyway if you had not been allowed to redirect the funds. If you need help with this or if your tax advisor has questions please send them to me.
Power Tip: Redirect 1/2 of your State Income Tax to Lincoln Village
End of Year Appeal, with a Twist
Over the weekend, you are likely to have gotten an appeal from a charity, perhaps one you’ve supported in the past. But, Lincoln is different from other things you support. Lincoln is completely Local. It affects families you probably encounter at some point living in Huntsville. Families with whom your kids will play ball. With whom you share a roadway and with whom you vote. Personally, I am big supporter of the Nature Conservancy and The Land Trust of North Alabama but I am bigger supporter of Lincoln. Why? Because it’s about people, specifically kids, that need the help and guidance of successful families if they are to be productive citizens and share in civil society.
Lincoln is not a hand-out. It’s a hand-up. We understand what enabling looks like and we work against it. Instead, we offer families who legitimately want to engage in their own success to come to our school and to our neighborhood. If they meet their goals, they will succeed and break the cycle of generational poverty. Lincoln Village is working to transform a small part of Huntsville by building up one family at a time and it’s working.
Not Asking for a Check
But, we are not asking you to write us a check. We’ve done our homework and we are going to work smarter than that. Because of a law called the Alabama Accountability Act, Alabama Taxpayers can redirect a portion of their state tax liability to one of several Scholarship Granting Organizations, or SGOs. SGOs are authorized by the state to accept these payments and then to provide scholarships to families with K-12 students currently attending a low performing school. The parents of those kids can apply with an SGO and if they qualify they can receive $6,000 to $10,000 per year to attend certain private schools of which Lincoln is one.
Too Good to be True
To be clear, this is not a donation, it is a way for a limited amount of money, up to $30 million, to be redirected to local private schools. It is money that you would be paying into the general fund of the State of Alabama anyway. This law allows you to redirect up to half of your Alabama Income Tax Liability into these SGOs. They are allowed a small administrative fee to process the scholarships and both of the groups with whom Lincoln works are exceptional managers of the funds. This really is a too-good-to-be-true opportunity for Lincoln, there is no downside for the taxpayers or for the school.
So, finally, when you go to pay your Alabama Income Tax. Please please please choose to redirect the maximum amount allowed to one of the SGOs with which Lincoln Academy has a relationship: Scholarships for Kids in Birmingham or RocketSGO in Huntsville. For this last push, we would ask that you please choose Scholarships for Kids over RocketSGO as they are still a little short of their budget and they are our valued partners in education. Thanks for reading. If you have a question please comment on this blog post and I’ll reach out.
Lincoln Academy Taking Applications
Who We Are
Lincoln Academy is a church school which seeks to provide a high quality Christ-centered education to K-8 students who are zoned to public Title I schools.
With the efforts of a devoted administration, faculty and staff, all students receive standards based, data driven instruction in a supportive environment to achieve their maximum potential. It is our commitment to ensure deep academic content knowledge, critical thinking skills, and Christian character building to have students prepared for high school and college.
Our students receive scholarships based on income. The scholarships are granted from “Scholarships for Kids” which is a state scholarship granting organization. Scholarships may only be granted on behalf of students who meet the eligibility requirements of the Accountability Act:
- The student is a member of a household whose total annual income meets the requirements of the Accountability Act.
- The student was eligible to attend a public school in the preceding semester or is starting school in Alabama for the first time.
Does my child qualify for a scholarship?
Scholarships are available for students transferring from “failing” public schools to qualified nonpublic schools, and, under some circumstances, to other students that meet the income requirements. Income Requirements.
If you have questions about the school or about applying just ask me or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will forward it to the right people at Lincoln.
We also have a pre-school if your kids are not ready for elementary yet.
End of the Year Giving Ideas…
So we’re coming in on the end of another year. If you are thinking of making a little bit more of an impact this year, consider an end of the year gift to one of these social movements in Huntsville, they are all amazing. Want to add one, just post it here.
- Village Marketplace, Inc. – A 501(C)(3) Organization located in Lincoln Village area just north of downtown. VMP is engaged in 1) providing employment for people who can work but need a good first (or recovery) job; 2) providing low-cost goods to the neighborhood and 3) providing long-term funding to three local charities: Boys & Girls Club, Lincoln Academy and Village of Promise. Donate by donating material or your time to the store. Talk to Marisa Suarez-Stearns at the store.
- Boys & Girls Club – What an amazing ministry! There are clubs all over the county serving kids with after school care, summer programs and all sorts of homework help, transportation, meals, mentors and basically a whole support system for a group of kids that really depend on them. My friend Lisa Downs is involved with them as an education coordinator. Pat Wynn is the Director and a powerful advocate for the kids. Several other close friends have served on their board including Jodi Adams, Bill Fowler and I am sure more I don’t know about. They do good work. Donate here.
- Lincoln Academy – A Christian school located in the Lincoln Village area just north of downtown. My Dad went there in the 30s when the Lincoln Mill was still operating. Since then the neighborhood went way down and was the scene of depravity and poverty and hopelessness. Then, in 2005 some crazy people from Southwood Church lead by their chief crazy person my friend Mark Stearns began to pour into the area pledging to do whatever it took to drag the people out of the darkness that was overtaking their world. It worked, now they own the school and it’s a center of hope and excellence. Give till it hurts folks, these amazing people are changing lives every day down there.
- Village of Promise – So Bobby Bradley grew up in the neighborhood, graduated from Butler High School and Vanderbilt University. She’s a smart, focused, dedicated business person and that talent allowed her to build a big company and then to sell it. Now, refocused on her home town, she’s determined to break the cycle of generational poverty in the University Place Elementary School area. She’s gathering support and supporters (and Board Members like me) to work on a data-driven, strategic initiative to tutor, mentor and otherwise push 1700+/- kids into college and into a better life. Donate here.
- Randolph School – The only K-12 Independent School in North Alabama, Randolph is the leading primary and secondary educational institution in the area. As a Trustee of the school and an alumnus it’s my sincere belief that no organization can do more to advance the pursuit of excellence in primary education in the area. As part of an effort to take that leadership role Randolph has established the Randolph School Community Learning Fund with the Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County. It’s a great way to donate to the School and to focus those funds on an effort that benefits the whole city. Donate here.
- Land Trust of Huntsville & North Alabama – Driving east from the airport into Huntsville you see the city nestled against the rolling green hills of the lower cumberland plateau. Those hills overlooking the town are for the most part undeveloped, creating a nearly unbroken “emerald necklace” surrounding the city’s downtown. That land, plus more than 5000 acres in three counties, was preserved by the Land Trust. It’s still today offering one of the best Urban Trail systems in the country because of the tireless advocacy of the Land Trust. Want to help? Sign up for the Land Baron’s program that deducts a small amount from your account each month earmarked solely for the purchase of open space.
- The Nature Conservancy – The Conservancy is the Land Trust writ large. The Conservancy has a big presence in Alabama and I joined the State Board of Trustees this year. I can’t say enough about the professionalism and dedication of their staff. Wow. The lands in Paint Rock Valley all the way down the Cahaba and the Coosa down into the Delta where Alabama spreads out to meet the Gulf. The lands and micro-habitats preserved by the Conservancy maintain the very life that makes up our world, and is so additive to our own experience in ways that we don’t fully understand. Donate by becoming a member, it’s easy and cheap. If everyone I know did this we’d live in a measurably better State and you won’t miss a small auto-debit each month.
Marion Wright Edelman, or how to Fix Your Own Truck
So I have lots of conservative friends. Dyed in the wool Republicans who hunt and fish and love America and barbecue and Bear Bryant as much as they love their mamas. The idea of accepting a handout to them is about as foreign as sushi. They are self-sufficient to a fault. They will fix their own truck even if they posses no mechanical aptitude. Because it’s bad form for another man to be messing with your truck.
What does that have to do with Dr Edelman? I doubt she has a truck. But she does know something about self-sufficiency and that’s a value system that I understand, that my guys understand and that the South understands. When there is a problem, she set out to fix it herself. She didn’t rely on someone else. She didn’t wait on Washington, or Chicago, to fix the problems. She just created a solution. Her, and about a million friends.
We have a problem in Huntsville. A really big problem. There are schools in the north and west side of the city. that have not been successful in 20 or 30 years. Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. A school with a 45% graduation rate is like a cancer in the neighborhood. Or like a neutron bomb. Remember those? They were nuclear bombs that would leave the structures mostly intact but destroy all life. Failing schools are like that and the good people of Huntsville have allowed this situation to exist for years. For decades.
So what would a good ole boy do about that? They’d insist on a government program to come in and remedy the situation! Of course they would! We know they just want more Washington DC in their lives!
No. No they wouldn’t. They’d do it themselves. They’d see the problem, decide on a solution and get to it.
That’s what we’re doing at Village of Promise. We saw a problem (failing schools) and we acted.
But first, because we’ve actually been successful ourselves, we stopped and thought about it. We traveled to New York and Atlanta and St Louis and everywhere in between. We met national leaders and brought them to Huntsville to see our schools and tell us how they have affected change in their cities. We brought education reformer Geoffrey Canada to Huntsville and learned how he’s changed Harlem. We’ve partnered with the City Schools and we work with them, inside the school buildings. But we’re not willing to wait for someone to fix it for us. As Geoffrey said “no one is coming to save your children”. If they are to be saved from generational poverty, we will have to do it.
Dr Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund have taken this approach. They work with government and schools every day, and they also overlay their own programs on top of the school’s programs to fill in the wide gaps that exist in the inconsistent fabric that is American public education. That’s what Village of Promise is all about. Finding the failing schools (did that), learning from the best in the field (doing that) and making a difference in our own neighborhoods, doing Whatever it Takes to pull the next generation out of the cycle.
With your help, Huntsville can avoid the fate of Montgomery’s public schools. Of Mobile’s public schools and Memphis public schools and so many other cities around the south where everyone who can goes to private school and the public schools get what’s left. That’s not the Rocket City. That’s not the Huntsville I know. How can you help? You can donate to your favorite politician who says they have the solution, or you can donate to Village of Promise where essentially all of your money goes into educational programing.
You can also sponsor a table at the next Village of Promise speaker event where Dr Edelman will tell us about the Children’s Defense Fund and it’s work, and about the Freedom Schools. See www.villagepromise.com for details. I know who reads this blog so I will be calling for your sponsorship.
Teach a Kid to Learn
So I am kind of overcommitted in my personal life. I am a little obsessed with people. People in general. I like people. People are some of my favorite… oh you get the idea. So because I love people so much, I find it very distressing that some people don’t think they have a chance in life.
Some people are not aware that they have what it takes to live a happier, more productive life within them. It bugs me. Because it’s not true.
Most people are self-limiting, held back by their own nagging doubts and passivity. But it’s not hard to wake people up from this stupor. It only requires that someone draw near to them, look them hard in the eye and say WAKE UP! You can read a book and you can be inspired and you can get an education and BOOM! You can live in a house, own your own car and send your kids to a decent school, where hopefully they won’t have it as hard as you did. For almost any poor person, that is possible. Not easy but possible.
So because I have seen people benefit from this path so often. I am very committed to education. In addition to my real job as CEO of a real estate technology company, I am also (over)engaged in several projects to try and make Huntsville a smarter city.
I am Chairman of the Board of Randolph School, the premier K-12 education institution in the area and the only Independent School between Nashville and Birmingham.
I am also Chairman of the Board of The Village of Promise, a 501(c)(3) focused on intervening in the cycle of generational poverty in Huntsville, specifically University Place Elementary School. Village of Promise was started by a friend of mine and a friend of the Randolph family, Bobby Bradley in who’s own life education was transformational.
Also, I am on the Board of a “second hand store” owned by my wife Julie and I in the Lincoln Village neighborhood. It’s called Village Marketplace and it’s mission is to provide: recovery employment, low-cost goods to the area and steady funding to our partners, the Boys & Girls Club of North Alabama, The Village of Promise and Lincoln Academy, a christian school in the Lincoln Village neighborhood.
What all these things have in common is an effort to help people who want to help themselves. Education across the spectrum is helpful and life-changing and people have to be taught that no one can stop them from living a better life, unless they just don’t go.
Guest Post: Alberto Aguilar
Many things had happen this semester so far. I’m enjoying college every day more and more, but I am no only busy with school, Im also working in church and other extracurricular things.
Right now I’m taking many cool subjects in college like data bases and mobile application development, I am working on both iOS and Android Projects and its really awesome. I like this class a lot and I am learning cool things here. I also have a networking class, and what I am trying to achieve here is to get the first CISCO certification, I have to read a lot but I’m hoping to get the certifications by the end of this semester, It is a really good thing to have of you are on any IT mayor. I’m working on matlab too, for my numeric methods class which its interesting as well. I only have one and a half month left for this semester, i’m getting ready for finals next month.
I always like and want to serve in church. I have participated in many ways. The church that I go to its Shalom, this church its growing very fast, indeed we opened a mission on Blas Pascal. I worked with the kids ministry for the past three years at shalom, I’m on the team that do the service for the kids, I used to do that on shalom but now I’m doing it on the new mission at Blas pascal. we are 6 people on the team, and its going really well. Some sundays a lot of kids go but some others only like one or two, we have faith on God that more people start to going to this new church. I feel that is a blessing, I’m am thankful that god give me this opportunity. The church invited me to go to a Christian conference in North Point in Atlanta on spring, It’s to learn more about service, and it think its a really great think and that I can learn a lot from that, so I’m looking forward to go. It’s called Drive conference and it’s an event for church leaders.
We recently had an event here for parents and children, and I was part of the production team. Many blessings in this church.
On the beginning of september I worked for a week at a golf tournament part of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica at Yucatan Country Club. I was working with the logistics and production team. It was hard work but I had fun and I learned a lot about many things. It was a cool experience.
I’m very thankful with God for all the opportunities that he is giving me and my family, all the blessings He gives us and all the love that He show us everyday. I can’t be more happy with my family, friends and school.
Lincoln Academy Tutoring Schedule
- M – 10
- Tues – 7
- W – 8
- Thurs -11
- Fri – 11
The start of something big in Lincoln Village!
A new shopping experience is coming to Lincoln Village this fall. Julie and I have rented a building at 1000 Meridian Street just north of Brooks and Collier and on the other side of the street, at the corner of Meridian and King. The new shop will feature clothes and other goods for the neighborhood plus a wide array of gifts and other stuff you’ll want. And coffee.
The objective is to provide a sustatainable revenue stream for local antipoverty campaigns working in the area and it’s going to work. It’s all going to work because of the HUGE army of people being this effort, Julie and I are just trying to be the catalyst to get it rolling… It’s also going to work because of the management team of Dusty and Tristan Graham who dropped into our lives (how’d that happen?) and turned out to have tons of experience just when we needed it. It’s going to work because of the GREAT partners we already have onboard, including:
- The Village, a 501c3 focused on finding street people and connecting them with services.
- Lincoln Village Ministries, a 501c3 focused on breaking the cycle of generational poverty in the Lincoln Mill neighborhood.
- The Village of Promise, a 501c3 focused on breaking the cycle of generational poverty in the University Place neighborhood.
- First Stop, a 501c3 focused on engaging with the homeless community in the area.
At the end of each quarter, we’ll be distributing income to these groups to help advance their critical work. They are changing Huntsville one relationship at a time and we are committed to help them. Watch for more information coming up! We’ll start accepting items for donation in the next few weeks. Thanks everyone! This will be fun!!!
Featured Education Rock Star: Jessica Martin
Jessica Martin graduated from Lee High School last year where she won the “I Dare You” Award given to the kid who outperformed the staff’s expectations. Jessica has a brother who’s a gymnast and was involved with Lincoln Village Ministry at Chapman Middle and Lincoln School.
This year, she’s the first in her big family to go to college and Julie and I were excited to be able to take her down to Wallace State last Friday. She has a great roommate from Decatur named Treasure, they are both turning 19 in the next couple of weeks so they already have lots in common.
Jessica is studying to be a dental tech or some other medical kind of career. She’s a smart, funny young lady and we know she’ll do great.
If you’d like to help out with Jessica just post here and let me know. I’ll be posting her mailing address when I get it in the next week of two. I’d be great for you guys to write her a note of encouragement, especially around exams. She’s by herself and until she met Treasure, didn’t know a single person.
We’re proud of you Jessica!
Helping a Seminary Student: Noah Roberts
Hello! My name is Noah D. Roberts, and I am a seminary student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. I am pursuing a Master of Divinity degree to prepare me for full-time ministry either here in the U.S. or abroad, and I am about 3/4 of the way through. God has taught me so much!
My wife, Julie, and I have 2 children: Magdalena Grace whom God used to change many lives around the world even though she was with us for a short time, and Walter Douglas who was born 28 September 2009. He is an amazingly cute, funny little guy and a huge blessing to us.
In 2006, Julie and I moved to Mississippi from Merida, Mexico where we had been missionaries for several years (where we met and where I met Matt Fowler!). Our return to the U.S. has certainly been eventful, but God has been faithful throughout.
Coming off of the mission field, we knew that finances would be a struggle as we adjusted to life in the States. Julie and I both have worked full-time as we have become parents and pursued graduate degrees (Julie has a Master of Arts of Teaching Foreign Languages). This school year, God provided Julie with an online Spanish teaching position for two community colleges which has allowed her to stay home more to raise Walt, which is an enormous answer to prayer! Along with an internship, driving a school bus and my studies, I have recently begun preaching regularly at small area churches which has provided some additional but small income. Even with our various jobs, we have had to trust God more fully to provide for us so that I may be able to continue my seminary studies.
The seminary has graciously awarded me a 50% scholarship for tuition so that the average cost of a semester for us is about $2400, plus about $800 per month for housing. With some money still owed from last semester, we need to raise most or all of $6000 before the Spring semester begins on 2 February 2011.
We would be honored to have you partner with us if you feel God is leading you to support us through this amazing journey of following God’s will!
Thank you and may God bless you richly and satisfy you most deeply!
Noah D. Roberts
In case you have not seen this video, it’s great. It’s a little old but if you’ve not seen it please watch. Even if you are familiar with work in the Village this is a really inspiring look at why they (we) do what they do.
Just browse to the site and start the video player. Let me know if you have any trouble.