No student should be denied access to safe, quality education simply because of their zip code. But last year alone, more than 50,000 student scholarship applications were rejected because of limits placed on Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs, which assist low- and middle-income families with private school tuition.
That’s why the Commonwealth Foundation is fighting to expand these critical school choice programs.
Since 2001, Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs — the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) — have given children a lifeline out of failing schools, providing educational opportunity while saving taxpayers millions.
However, thousands of applicants are turned away each year due to arbitrary caps on the amount of available tax credits.
Commonwealth Foundation research revealed that in 2016–17, almost 53,000 scholarship applications were denied. That exceeds the number of students in every school district except Philadelphia. Since 2012, 50 percent of student scholarship applications have been denied due to program limits.
Put another way, these programs could double in size and still not meet student demand.
Everyone wins with these tax credit scholarship programs. Students who receive scholarships can attend a school that better meets their needs. Moreover, numerous studies have shown that school choice improves public schools, benefiting the students who remain.
Taxpayers also come out ahead. According to an EdChoice audit, the EITC program alone saved Pennsylvania schools more than $1 billion between 2002 and 2014.
The Commonwealth Foundation is shining a light on this heartbreaking problem and activating scholarship organizations, school choice champions, parents, and community leaders to advocate for change.
This advocacy led to a $25 million increase for EITC K–12 scholarships in the 2018–19 state budget, matching the second largest increase in the EITC program’s history. This will allow up to another 15,000 students to be served. Sadly, tens of thousands will still be left behind even after this increase.
That’s why Commonwealth is backing legislation in the House (HB 2530) and Senate (SB 1204) which can solve the supply problem by annually increasing tax credit caps by 25 percent if 90 percent of available credits are used. This automatic escalator would ensure no more students get left behind.
The Commonwealth Foundation will continue building public support for school choice policy solutions to move this critically important legislation from vision to victory. Our children’s futures depend on it.