Philadelphia Parents Rally for Opportunity Scholarships

Last week, Philadelphia parents and community leaders gathered in support of the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program. The event was sponsored by Educational Opportunities for Families (EOF) and held at St. Martin de Porres School.

With charter applications outnumbering open seats 150-to-1 in some instances, and thousands of tax credit scholarship applications denied, it’s no wonder parents are advocating for their children. Ironically, three charter school applications were rejected by the Philly school board less than 24 hours following this event.

EOF’s Executive Director, Dr. Malachi Muhammad, kicked things off by introducing the parents, “the faces of the scholarship program.”

Lori Cooke was the first parent to speak. OSTC funding enables her son, to receive a “Christ-centered education” at Hunting Park Christian Academy. According to Lori, “parents need these choices, children need these opportunities, and my son would not have had the chance to be successful without OSTC.”

Dr. Malachi Muhammad with Lori Cooke and her son

Next was Elizabeth Vargas. Elizabeth has an autistic son who “had to go to the private school to receive the care he needed.” Despite being told by many ‘experts’ that her son’s prospects were limited, Elizabeth continued to advocate for his education. Against all odds, Elizabeth’s son went on to attend Penn State University after high school.

Miyah Campbell also shared her experience with tax credit scholarships. Miyah knew her daughter needed a school for “diverse learners to meet her needs.” They found their answer at the Woodlynde School. According to Miyah, “the most empowering thing as a parent is to have a goal for your child’s education.” Thanks to OSTC and Miyah’s goals, her daughter is now 19 and equipped for a successful adulthood.

Dr. Muhammad closed the event by reiterating the need for opportunity and education choice as the solution. “As a Muslim, I see and acknowledge the amazing value these kids are receiving from a Christ-centered education.” Dr. Muhammad stated that parents deserve “a seat at the table,” urging them to continue telling their stories.

As a Muslim, I see and acknowledge the amazing value these kids are receiving from a Christ-centered education.

Dr. Malachi Muhammad

Thankfully, they’re getting attention. Last Thursday, more than 30 business, education, and community leaders sent a letter to the General Assembly and Governor Wolf calling for a $100 million increase in the OSTC program.

Lawmakers are listening. Legislation has been proposed in both chambers to raise the limits on tax credit scholarships. Senator Mike Regan’s plan would boost available EITC and OSTC tax credits by 25 percent if 90 percent of credits were used the previous year. Speaker of the House Mike Turzai’s proposal calls for a $100M increase in EITC K-12 scholarships next year—the largest one-year increase since the program’s inception. In addition, his plan would boost available tax credits by 10 percent when 90 percent of tax credits were used the previous year.

Any of these plans would expand opportunities for thousands of Pennsylvania kids. It’s time for parents to be given “a seat at the table.”