Compromise Would Save Kids, Taxpayers
Politics is the art of compromise, they say. When you have to get at least 102 out of the 203 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to agree on something, you can understand why it's difficult for a politician to get everything he or she wants in a piece of legislation, particularly on controversial issues.
But compromising on policy doesn't require compromising on principles. That's the difference between a politician and a statesman. The former is interested in just "getting things done" while the latter is interested in "doing the right thing." The statesman is interested in moving policy in the right direction, even if the legislation is not everything he or she wants.
So when it comes to giving parents the freedom to choose the best and safest school for their children, we'd like every parent to have that right. Fortunately, since 2002, Pennsylvania's Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) has been giving tens of thousands of kids better educational opportunities. As you know, we've been fighting for more. But as you also know, those who financially benefit from the government-run monopoly of public schools have battled us every step of the way.
For years we've been trying to expand all educational options for children through expanding EITC, more charter and cyber charter schools, home schooling, and even vouchers. But until the Union Party gives way to the Taxpayer Party in Harrisburg, these battles are extremely difficult given that unions have the money to lobby and the time to play politics while taxpayers have neither.
That's why we are at a pivot point. We can and will keep fighting for more school choice in all its forms for more and more children in Pennsylvania. That's why we are excited about a bill that Rep. Jim Christiana will be introducing in the coming days.
The legislation would expand the current EITC program and establish a companion program called the Education Improvement Scholarship Credit (EISC) aimed at rescuing kids trapped in Pennsylvania's most violent and underperforming schools. Funding will come from Pennsylvania businesses, similar to EITC, rather than through state subsidy.
Some key elements of this legislation are as follows:
- The current EITC program cap would increase from $75 million to $100 million in the 2012-13 school year.
- The new Education Improvement Scholarship Credit (EISC) will provide an additional $100 million in tax credit-funded opportunity scholarships in the 2012-13 school year.
- The EISC program would be limited to children residing within the attendance areas of the lowest-achieving 15% of public schools.
- Opportunity scholarships could be used at private schools and neighboring school districts that decide to participate.
- The maximum scholarship would be capped at $8,500 for students without disabilities and $15,000 for students with disabilities, or the actual tuition and fees of the new school, whichever is less.
- The EISC program would be funded entirely by contributions by business firms to opportunity scholarship organizations.
This proposal would help thousands of students trapped in violent and failing schools, improve the quality of education, and save taxpayers money. Truly, this is a compromise that does the right thing.
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The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.