The Story for Pennsylvania

 

   

New School Choice Program Created in Pennsylvania:  Link

Lawmakers also improve the state's current tax-credit scholarship program

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers created a new tax-credit scholarship program for low- and middle-income families confined to public schools performing in the lowest 15 percent academically. That program, along with an expansion to Pennsylvania’s existing tax-credit scholarship program, passed the legislature June 30, and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.

 

This is another victory for Pennsylvania’s children and school choice advocates, despite the fact that a Senate-approved voucher measure failed to pass the state’s House of Representatives last year.

 

“Even though there is more work to be done to give all families in Pennsylvania real educational freedom, leaders and advocates in the Keystone State did what every school choice supporter should do: Never give up,” Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said. “Other states can learn from Pennsylvania’s hard-fought experience to provide school choice to more families, as well as their dedication to keep on fighting for kids.”

 

Pennsylvania’s legislative action creates a tax credit for corporate donations to nonprofits that distribute scholarships to students living in areas with public schools performing in the lowest 15 percent. Credits are worth 75 percent of corporations’ donations; if donating for consecutive years, that credit increases to 90 percent. The cap on total credits is $50 million. In 2012-13, corporate donations cannot exceed $400,000, which increases to $750,000 in subsequent years. Maximum family income for eligibility is $60,000 through June 2013 ($75,000 after that date), plus an income allowance equaling $12,000 per additional child. Scholarships cannot exceed $8,500 ($15,000 for students with special needs).

 

“The Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit ensures many families who need access to better schools will be empowered through school choice,” Otto Banks, executive director of Pennsylvania’s REACH Alliance & Foundation, said. “We are grateful to the legislative leaders and governor who put the interests of students first, as well as to the many parents and supporters who dedicated their time and energy to this cause.”

 

The legislation passed June 30 also expands Pennsylvania’s existing Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). It increases the available tax credits for the EITC program to $100 million from $75 million; $60 million will be for scholarships, $30 million for educational improvement grants, and $10 million for pre-kindergarten scholarships. Maximum family income for eligibility increases to $75,000 from $60,000, plus an income allowance equaling $12,000 per additional child through June 30, 2013, increasing to $15,000 on July 1, 2014, with an inflationary index applied each year thereafter.

 

One prominent voice educating Pennsylvanians on the EITC expansion and, in particular, the state’s underperforming schools was the Commonwealth Foundation. Over the past year, the free-market think tank produced videos and research pieces showing state residents the value of school choice and the societal costs of failing schools.

 

“Months of feverish activity on the part of school choice advocates have paid off in a big way here in Pennsylvania,” Charles Mitchell, Commonwealth’s vice president, said. “It’s simply unacceptable that there is a violent incident every 17 minutes in one of our worst-performing schools, and thanks to our recent victory, we’re no longer accepting it.”

 

With Pennsylvania’s victory, this year six school choice programs in operation have been expanded and five new programs have been created. For more information on school choice programs across the country, visit EdChoice.org/SchoolChoicePrograms.

 

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