Flex Tuition, The STO Requirement, Raising your Tuition


The IDEA School strongly values being an inclusive community accessible to all families. We will never turn away a family for lack of funds. In order to ensure equity, 100% accessibility and greater transparency about the cost to run the school, we are implementing “Flexible Tuition” for 2020-21 (see table below). 

We anticipate the cost to run the school in 2020-21 will be about $10,740/student. Your tuition will be somewhere between $320 for the year and $10,740 for the year, depending on your family’s financial circumstances (see table).  Note: In the past, our posted tuition has always been significantly lower than the actual cost to run the school. We are aiming to no longer “hide” the actual cost — and value — of our unique program.

Our bottom line stays the same: For every family, we will make it work financially. This is especially true now in these uncertain times. We raise the balance of the funds needed to run the IDEA School through direct charitable donationsindividual tax credit donations recommended to the IDEA School, and corporate low-income tax credit donations. The entire community makes the IDEA School possible.

To qualify for Flex Tuition, you must submit our Financial Aid application (1st Round Deadline May 13; link below) AND apply to the school tuition organizations IBE and AZ Leadership Foundation (info and links below). 


Flex Tuition Schedule, 2020-21

Special Circumstances: Any family may “move up” 1-4 tiers in Flexible Tuition due to special financial circumstances, depending on the severity of the circumstances.

Special Financial Circumstances may include, but are not limited to: high medical costs due to expensive chronic healthcare needs and/or unexpected medical expenses or emergencies; childcare (0-5), eldercare, or other ongoing family care obligations; caring for a loved one with a disability; large student loan debt (as compared to income); costs associated with being a grandparent raising your grandchild; recent loss of job or hours due to COVID-19 (Note: Recent job loss will likely move your family up more than 4 Tiers — we would look at your new financial situation); recent loss of business due to COVID-19.

Tuition payments are made over 1o monthly payments, beginning in July, so your tuition will range from $32/mo to $1,074/mo, depending on your income.  NOTE: Failure to apply to both AZ Leadership Foundation and IBE  (see STO Requirement, below) may jeopardize your Flex Tuition offer. It is critical you apply.


Please complete the IDEA School financial aid application at this link or below. If applying on paper, please mail completed application, with first 2 pages of tax return included, to:
IDEA School
c/o Financial Aid
325 W 2nd Street #6
Tucson, AZ 85705

The application requires you to attach/upload a copy of the first 2 pages of your 2019 Federal Tax Return (IRS Form 1040), with all Social Security Numbers blacked out.

You can complete the Financial Aid Application online or download and complete the paper version below. Please print clearly. Call David Higuera with any questions you may have, at (520) 310-3919 (cell):




We require that you apply to the School Tuition Organizations (STOs) listed below — unless you are receiving Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Funding.  STOs have millions of dollars to award in need-based scholarships across the state each year, to all families who qualify and apply.  These scholarships contribute greatly to the sustainability of our program by helping us to cover the difference between your Flex Tuition (out-of-pocket) amount and the full cost of $10,740/student to run the school. 

NOTE: If you are awarded more in scholarships from STOs than the difference between $10,740 and your Flex Tuition amount, you will see your Flex Tuition amount reduced further. Questions? Ask David. 

The School Tuition Organizations (STOs)
to which you MUST apply are:

(1) IBE – Institute for Better Education; and

(2) Arizona Leadership Foundation

1) IBE  (INSTITUTE FOR BETTER EDUCATION)  2020-21 APPLICATION NOW OPEN; 1st Round Deadline: May 4, 2020; 2nd Round Deadline Aug. 17, 2020

Click here to apply online or download the paper application.

2) ARIZONA LEADERSHIP FOUNDATION (ALF)  2020-21 APPLICATION NOW OPEN; Deadline: July 22, but apply now.

Download paper application here.

Note: For ALF, you must submit your application and supporting documents all together, by fax or as email attachment (PDF only). We’re happy to submit on your behalf if you bring us all documents. Call David at (520) 310-3919 or email david@explorebuildlearn.org.  If you do not qualify for an ALF scholarship based on your income (see p. 2 of their application), please simply state this fact on IDEA School’s application. 

NOTE: Disabled/Displaced (“DD”) Scholarship also available for qualifying students.

Eligible students may receive both the Low-Income Scholarship and the “Disabled/Displaced Scholarship” (for students with documented special needs or who have ever been in the AZ foster care system) from both IBE and Az Leadership Foundation.  See DD Application materials on both websites.



E.S.A. NOTE: In a given school year, a student may receive either STO aid or ESA aid (Empowerment Scholarship Account), but not both. For more information about ESA scholarships for students with special needs and certain transfer students, click here.


We can help you navigate all this! Call Finance Director David Higuera with any questions at (520) 310-3919 (cell) or email david@explorebuildlearn.org.

Raising Your Tuition

Tax Credit Donations from individual AZ taxpayers allow you to “raise” your Flex Tuition (out-of-pocket) obligation. (Note: students receiving ESA not eligible.)  

Friends and extended family, neighbors and colleagues — any Arizona taxpayer — may help support your child’s education with an Individual Tax Credit Donation recommended specifically to your child, through IBE.  Recommended Funds received by IBE for your child come right off your Flex Tuition obligation.  

The taxpayer may contribute under both the “original individual” tax credit and the “plus” tax credit.

  • ALL students are eligible for scholarships from the “original individual” tax credit.
  • Additionally, some students are also eligible for scholarships from the “plus” tax credit.  Students are eligible for this additional “plus” support if they meet one of the following conditions: (1) they are enrolled in Kindergarten when they first apply; (2) they were enrolled for at least one semester (90 days) of the prior or current school year in an Arizona public school (district or charter) before transferring to the private school; (3) they have a parent/guardian who is active duty military stationed in Arizona; (4) they have received “plus”/ “overflow” aid  from a school tuition organization in a prior school year and have continued to attend a qualifying private school; or (5)  they have received a “Corporate Low-Income Scholarship” from an STO in a prior school year and have continued to attend a qualifying private school.  In the cases of public school transfer or previous STO award, written verification of public school attendance or prior STO award is required.  See the PSAV Form (Public School Attendance Verification) or Previous STO Award Form available from IBE on their website. 

For friends/family who want to help you —
Donation limits:

For the 2020 tax year individual filers may donate up to $1,183 and get it back as a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on their 2020 tax return.  Married couples filing jointly may donate up to $2,365.  These figures include both the “original individual” tax credit donation and the “plus” tax credit donation.  Donors must max out their “Original Individual” tax credit donation before being able to donate for the “Plus” Tax Credit. For more info, see our Tax Credit page.

NOTE: Regardless of the tax year for which the donor claims the Tax Credit, the funds they donate through IBE (minus IBE’s 8% admin fee) that are recommended for your child will be available to help pay your tuition bill in current and future school years. In other words, any funds not used/needed for your current Flex Tuition obligation automatically stay at IBE in your child’s name for future school years.

Donating to a student and to IDEA School

Arizona Tax Credit donors may recommend that part of their donation go to a particular student at IDEA School, and part go to the IDEA School itself to fund low-income scholarships for all students in need.

If your child is not eligible for a “Plus” funding (see above), please encourage your donors to recommend your child for their “Original” Tax Credit donation and the IDEA School for their “Plus” Tax Credit donation.  

Call David Higuera if you need help or have any questions at all. He’d be happy to help you!



Per state law, a taxpayer may not support his/her/their own dependent with a tax credit donation. Additionally, a taxpayer may not “swap” tax credit donations with another taxpayer in order to benefit either taxpayer’s own dependent.


Policy of Non-Discrimination

The IDEA School strongly values diversity and inclusion in our student body, staff, and Board of Directors and aims, through our composition, values and practices, to reflect the diversity of the Tucson community.

The IDEA School admits students of any race, color, national original, ethnic origin, socio-economic status, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status and physical ability to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national original, ethnic origin, socio-economic status, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status or physical ability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship/financial aid policies and programs, or athletic and other school-administered programs.