Pennsylvania Events Showcase School Choice Students, Parents

Published May 1, 2008

In anticipation of the seventh anniversary of the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, Pennsylvania legislators this spring took part in awards ceremonies for children and their parents to highlight how well the program is working.

The REACH Foundation (Road to Educational Achievement through Choice), the group that oversees the tax credit scholarship program, held awards ceremonies on March 13 and 27 to honor scholarship recipients and their parents.

Attending the March 13 event at Holy Innocents Area Catholic Elementary School in Philadelphia were Pennsylvania state Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) and state Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia). They presented students Scott Bui and Ashley LaTorre with legislative citations for taking an active role in promoting school choice.

“My mom sent me to Holy Innocents A.C.E.S. in Philadelphia because at the time, there was only one public school in our neighborhood, and they were sending students to other schools because it was so crowded,” LaTorre said. “My mom also wanted to make sure I got the best education I could, so I would have all of the skills I need to succeed in high school, college, and in my career. Holy Innocents is preparing me to do anything I want. Holy Innocents receives money from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the EITC program, and I would not be able to attend this school without it.”

Bui, who attends the same school, agreed.

“My parents have chosen Holy Innocents because they want me to get the best education I can,” Bui said. “Here, they encourage the students to do well in school. Here, students can receive scholarships, like the EITC, and tuitions that any family would need.”

Good for Parents

Since 2001 more than 3,000 businesses statewide have qualified for the EITC, donating $350 million for scholarships to 158,000 students. This year, REACH estimates approximately 44,000 students will be able to attend the school that best fits their educational needs through the EITC program.

Last year, REACH launched its first marketing campaign, to educate the public, legislators, and media on the true meaning of school choice. The Visions of Choice campaign connects the concept of school choice and the real-life success it provides for thousands of families in the Commonwealth every year.

Earlier this year, REACH held a contest to solicit school choice stories from all over the state, and chose nine new families for its 2008 campaign. From the start, the campaign has always included a testimonial book with the families’ stories, postcards highlighting the children, and photos and stories posted on the REACH Web site. Bui, LaTorre, and Ryan and Kyle Wiesenberg–honored by state Rep. Art Hershey (R-Chester) at the March 27 event–represent three of those families.

“As parents, it is very comforting to know that our children are in a loving, caring, prayerful environment when we leave for work for the day,” said Paul Wiesenberg, the boys’ father. “In this busy, fast-paced world of ours, we believe parents need all the support possible to raise kind, giving, and compassionate children.

“The school reinforces the values of integrity, community, love, and compassion while excelling in providing high-quality education to our students,” Wiesenberg continued. “We are thankful our boys can attend the school we feel is best for them. This school would not be the blessing it is without the EITC program.”

Good for Business

Hershey pointed out how the program benefits businesses statewide. “The EITC is a great way to partner the business and school communities together for the betterment of Pennsylvania’s children,” he said. “Since the program’s inception in 2001, the allocation for it has increased four times, with a current funding cap of $75 million. This clearly illustrates the success of the program, as well as the high interest from the business community.”

REACH Executive Director Andrew LeFevre agreed.

“Our public school system is often a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t always work for everyone,” LeFevre explained. “For each of our families, school choice made it possible to put their children in the school that best fit their educational needs.

“REACH hopes the Visions of Choice campaign will continue to show people the positive impact allowing parents to choose their child’s schooling can have on a family and a community,” LeFevre continued.

Stacy L. Henninger ([email protected]) is director of communications at the REACH Foundation in Pennsylvania.