What are Education Savings Accounts -- and how can they help children in Pennsylvania?
Over the next nine months, many students will have their lives transformed for the better. But for thousands of other children, this time of year is defined by disappointment. They are trapped in schools that don’t meet their needs—effectively held hostage by a system that limits choice and opportunity.
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The moral argument for school choice is irrefutable: Every child deserves access to a first-rate education. Families should not be limited by the supply of public schools within artificially-drawn district boundaries. This is why Pennsylvania’s private scholarship programs, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC), are so important. They empower thousands of children each year to break free of the education-by-zip code injustice and instead attend a school that best fits their unique needs.
It is not just scholarship recipients, however, who benefit from tax credit programs. Taxpayers, too, realize massive savings thanks to school choice. This according to The Tax-Credit Scholarship Audit, an essential new report from the team at EdChoice.
Author Marty Lueken’s analysis of Pennsylvania’s EITC program finds roughly $1.3 billion in taxpayer savings between 2002 and 2014. The report, which does not examine the OSTC, compares the cost of an EITC scholarship with the variable costs of each student enrolled in traditional public schools.
Crucially, Lueken estimates and accounts for students who switch from public to private schools as a result of the scholarship program. These are the students who generate the highest savings to taxpayers. The report estimates between 26 and 45 percent of scholarship recipients must have switched from public schools in order for the program to be fiscally neutral—certainly a reasonable and achievable projection.
What’s the bottom line? Say you’re pleased with your local public school. Perhaps you never thought twice about the state’s scholarship program, and you don’t have strong feelings about school choice one way or another. If you’re a Pennsylvania taxpayer, you have still benefited from the EITC.
All the more reason to increase the program and provide more scholarships to families.
Pennsylvania’s private school scholarship programs account for less than 2 percent of the $11 billion in state funds allocated for public schools. Yet it is impossible to overstate the significance of these programs for children and families.
Kevin McCorry of Newsworks tells the story of Thomas Short, a parent in South Philadelphia, who can send his sons to private school thanks to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs:
The only way he's able to afford Catholic school tuition is because he takes advantage of a scholarship program that's funded by state tax credits. Tuition for two children normally runs north of $9,000 per year.
With the scholarship, he pays just $1,500.
"Without this, [they're] not going here," he said.
According to Mr. Short, St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary is a better option than the traditional district school:
Short's perception of the nearby neighborhood public schools is low.
"They're not trying to develop the person as much as just trying to get them through to the next grade," he said. "I don't know why I'm saying that. It's just my opinion. Maybe that's how the public schools used to be back in the day when I went."
If House Speaker Mike Turzai has his way, the EITC and OSTC will see a sizable boost during the next fiscal year. Speaker Turzai recently released a co-sponsorship memo for legislation increasing the caps on how much businesses may donate to both programs—up from $175 million to $250 million.
This, on the heels of a $25 million EITC increase last July, would be welcome news for families and schoolchildren across the commonwealth.
Americans finally got a raise! That's the gist of recent headlines hailing significant economic growth in 2015, but in Pennsylvania the economy is still struggling.
From 1991 to 2015, Pennsylvania ranked 46th in job growth, 45th in personal income growth, and 46th in population growth while the size and scope of state government grew dramatically.
Consider the state's unemployment problem:
- Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose again in August—the fourth time in the last six months.
- The unemployment rate now sits at 5.7 percent, which is nearly 1 percentage point above the national average.
- Of all 50 states, Pennsylvania experienced the second largest increase in the unemployment rate over the last year.
So what’s the solution to the state’s decades-long stagnation? Some have proposed government mandates like a minimum wage hike and raising taxes to pay for more government spending.
Neither will solve our economic challenges.
Let’s take the minimum wage first. In practice, it harms the very people it intends to help.
For example, Chicago restaurant owners Mark Robertson and Mike Sullivan recently closed their Mexican restaurant because of the city’s wage mandate. The owners stated,
Unfortunately, the rapidly changing labor market for the hospitality industry has resulted in immediate, substantial increases in payroll expenses that we could not absorb through price increases” … “In the last two years, we have seen a 27 percent increase in the base minimum wage, a 60 percent increase in kitchen wages, and a national shortage of skilled culinary workers.
Increasing government spending is another popular proposal that harms the economy. States with the highest tax rates experience slower income growth and job growth than states with the lowest tax rates.
The commonwealth must head in a new direction.
The first step is restraining government spending—starting with $800 million in corporate welfare—and lowering taxes to put more money in the pockets of working people.
Another critical step is improving the quality of education. Increasing school choice options—such as expanding tax credit scholarships is critical to creating a society where all Pennsylvanians can seize economic opportunities.
Together, these solutions will empower Pennsylvanians and reinvigorate the state's economy.
posted by ANDREW RYAN | 10:31 AM | Comments
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