Pennsylvania Lawmakers Enact New Scholarship Tax Credit Program, Expand Existing Program

Jul 03, 2012, 14:15 ET from American Federation for Children

New law will serve children from low- and middle-income families trapped in the state's poorest-performing schools

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett last week signed into law a state budget that includes the creation of a new scholarship tax credit program for children trapped in failing schools and expands the nation's largest statewide scholarship tax credit program.

The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—praised school choice champions across the state for their work in helping pass the Educational Opportunity Scholarship Act, which became law on Saturday night and marks an important milestone on the road to creating more comprehensive and broad-based private school choice in the Keystone State. The newly-approved program creates a scholarship tax credit program for children from low- and middle-income families who attend the lowest-performing 15 percent of Pennsylvania schools.

The budget also expanded the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program, which has since 2001 provided scholarships to children from low- and middle-income families to attend the school of their parents' choice. More than 40,000 students participated in the EITC program during the 2010-11 school year.

"This budget represents an important step in the direction of making sure all Pennsylvania children have access to the quality education that best suits their individual needs," said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. "This is important progress and we look forward to providing even more opportunities to families in need in the months ahead."

There are 430 schools in Pennsylvania that rank among the state's bottom 15 percent. Under the new program, eligible students at those schools will be able to receive scholarships thanks to donations from businesses to nonprofit organizations. Up to $50 million can be donated for these new scholarships beginning this fall.

The EITC expansion raises the program's scholarship cap from $75 million to $100 million beginning this fall.

Pennsylvania's budget caps a remarkably strong first half of 2012 in the fight to give disadvantaged children greater educational options. New programs have also been enacted Louisiana, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Mississippi.

There are now 32 publicly-funded private school choice programs across the nation in 16 states and the District of Columbia. More than 210,000 children received scholarships through publicly-funded private school choice programs during the 2011-12 school year.

SOURCE American Federation for Children