A report on Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program shows the two-year-old initiative is producing benefits not only for parents and students but also for the public school system and taxpayers.
During the 2002-03 school year, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 low-income students were benefitting from the program, supported by more than $18.9 million from nearly 1,000 Pennsylvania corporations through 127 local scholarship organizations.
Signed into law by Governor Tom Ridge on May 17, 2001, the EITC permits Pennsylvania businesses to receive a 75 percent tax credit for single-year donations to organizations that provide private school scholarships to children from low-income families. Two-year donations are eligible for a 90 percent credit. Currently the EITC is capped at $20 million a year for the private school scholarships and at $10 million a year for “innovative” public school programs.
After examining the experiences of students and families participating in the scholarship program named Futuro Educacional (Futures in Education), Villanova University political science professor Robert Maranto concluded the EITC program had the following benefits:
- The scholarships primarily benefit low-income, minority students.
- Parents and guardians choose private schools based on academics, safety, and religion.
- Parents and guardians rate the private schools as superior to Philadelphia public schools, and report high levels of satisfaction with their child’s private school.
- The Futuro scholarships save Pennsylvania taxpayers and Philadelphia City Schools more than $360,000 annually.
“Everyone–children, parents, taxpayers, and public schools–benefits from the EITC,” said Foundation President Matthew J. Brouillette. “Children and parents get more, and taxpayers and public schools pay significantly less.”
Noting the $20 million credit for scholarships equals just 0.1 percent of the total public education funding in Pennsylvania, Brouillette recommended an expansion of the EITC. That would provide additional relief to public schools for rising costs and crowded classrooms, he said, as well as providing Pennsylvania’s neediest children with better educational opportunities.