Do you know that 49 percent of the kids who applied for tax credit scholarships in Pennsylvania were denied?
Parents, educators, and education reformers recently gathered at Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia for “Is School Choice the Black Choice?”—an education town hall moderated by broadcast journalist Roland Martin.
For 90 minutes, my colleague Lenny McAllister and the other panelists discussed tax credit scholarships, charter schools, and barriers to expanding those opportunities for Philadelphia families.
This third stop on Roland Martin’s 10-city tour was organized by The 74, with CF as an anchor partner.
Other panelists were Bryan Carter, CEO and president of Gesu School; David Hardy, executive director of Excellent Schools PA; Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus; Toya Algarin, a parent advocate and KIPP Philadelphia board member; Christina Grant, chief of charter schools and innovation for the School District of Philadelphia; and Jessica Cunningham Akoto, CEO of KIPP Philadelphia.
For low-income Philadelphians, the need for educational opportunity is critical. Philly families struggle with educational inequity coupled with excessive waiting lists for charter schools and tax credit scholarships.
Pennsylvania's tax credit scholarship programs, Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC), have provided an escape route for hundreds of thousands of students. But as Lenny pointed out in Philadelphia two weeks ago, new data from the Department of Community and Economic Development shows 49,000 scholarship applications were denied for the 2017-18 school year.
In order to meet the demand, we must expand tax credit scholarships.
Speaker Mike Turzai’s bill, House Bill 800, does exactly that. HB 800 would provide an immediate $100 million increase to the EITC cap and allow it to grow by 10 percent annually if 90 percent of tax credits are used in the prior year.
More than 15,000 life-changing EITC and OSTC scholarships were awarded to Philadelphia students in 2017-18. All students deserve that chance.