Since our last update on the new Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program, the Pa. Department of Education and Department of Community and Economic Development have compiled additional information for students and parents.
As of Friday, 43 opportunity scholarship organizations have been approved to offer students a scholarship to their school of choice during the 2012-13 school year. The list of scholarship organizations is available here.
Nearly 400 schools have signed up and will accept opportunity scholarship recipients, and more are being added almost daily. The list of participating schools can found here.
Only two public school districts—Clarion Area and Schuylkill Haven—have signed up to accept students. That is not surprising, but it is both disappointing and ironic: Government union bosses and their allies criticized school choice proposals by claiming that private schools wouldn't accept students from failing areas.
The OSTC allows businesses to contribute up to $400,000 to organizations that provide scholarships to students residing in the attendance boundaries of the lowest-performing 15 percent of public schools. Families may receive scholarships of up to $8,500 for traditional students and $15,000 for special needs students, up to the actual cost of tuition at a school of choice.
The OSTC is capped at $50 million. So far, businesses have applied for $10 million in credits for scholarship donations. This credit is on top of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, which was expanded to $100 million this year, and all credits for 2012-13 have already been claimed.
Not every student in a low-performing school will be able to get a scholarship this year. But thanks to the Pennsylvania businesses, lawmakers and advocates who made this possible, thousands of students will have the ability to escape failing and violent schools and find the best school to meet their educational needs.
For more information on opportunity scholarships and the EITC, check out our Policy Memo on Pennsylvania's school choice expansion.