More than 500 parents, children, legislators, and public school officials converged on Pennsylvania’s Capitol in Harrisburg on May 11 to celebrate the third anniversary of the state’s landmark Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC).
Since the program’s inception in 2001, Pennsylvania’s business community has contributed more than $100 million toward nonpublic school scholarships and to help establish innovative public school programs.
The EITC program, which allows businesses in Pennsylvania to receive up to a 90 percent tax credit for donations to nonprofit scholarship or educational improvement organizations, has funded more than 20,000 scholarships and countless programs in the state’s public schools in 2003-2004. To date, more than 1,900 businesses have participated in the EITC program.
For the first two years, the EITC was capped at $30 million–$20 million for scholarships and $10 million for public school programs. But faced with overwhelming demand for scholarships and programs, the Pennsylvania General Assembly raised the cap by $10 million and doubled the maximum tax credit from $100,000 to $200,000. Lawmakers also created a similar program exclusively for pre-K scholarships.
Joining the hundreds of children and families of scholarship recipients in the state capital was Dr. Jerry Kohn, superintendent of the Harrisburg public schools. The Harrisburg Public Schools Foundation has used tax credit contributions for its early childhood program and alternative education program. An appreciative Kohn explained that more than 500 Harrisburg public school children have benefited from the EITC program.
The program boasts bipartisan support from all across Pennsylvania. One of its leading advocates is State Senator and President Pro Tempore Bob Jubelirer (R-Blair County).
“Our assignment in the General Assembly is simple–to keep this program going,” Jubelirer told the enthusiastic crowd. “And we need to build on it so that more kids and more families have the chance to make a choice about their education.”
Jubelirer commented that the so-called “education advocates” ought to be at the celebration, too, but said they fail to see the good in this program and claim the state cannot afford it.
“What I see here today clearly underlines the opposite–we cannot afford to forgo this approach,” he declared.
The EITC anniversary celebration was sponsored by the REACH Foundation, Pennsylvania’s statewide grassroots coalition for school choice. Paul Henkels, chairman of REACH’s advocacy arm, the REACH Alliance, was particularly proud of the results of a long, difficult battle for educational freedom in Pennsylvania.
“For so many years we fought to empower parents and came excruciatingly close. To finally get over the goal line and see children going to good schools is very satisfying,” noted Henkels. “The business community’s investment in the EITC has enabled tens of thousands of children to receive a quality education and to have a chance for productive and fulfilling lives.”
A new round of funding for EITC and pre-K EITC scholarships begins with Pennsylvania’s fiscal year, July 1, 2004.
Dennis A. Giorno is executive director of the REACH Alliance and REACH Foundation, Pennsylvania’s grassroots coalitions dedicated to ensuring parental choice in education. His email address is [email protected].
For more information …
REACH–Road to Educational Achievement Through Choice–represents business, religious, civic, taxpayer, and nonprofit organizations committed to educational achievement through choice. Additional information about its work is available online at http://www.paschoolchoice.org.