Champions for Pa. Students

Yesterday the Senate took bold, swift action on behalf of Pennsylvania kids by passing HB 800—which would increase the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) K-12 tax credit scholarship cap by $100 million next year and further raise the cap by 10 percent when 90 percent of tax credits are used in the prior year.

Thanks to strong leadership in both chambers—HB 800 sponsor, House Speaker Mike Turzai, and Sens. Jake Corman and Joe Scarnati—the legislation now moves to the Governor’s desk.

EITC has been a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania students. The highest usage of tax credit scholarships is among students from low-income areas. Forty percent of all EITC scholarships were awarded in Philadelphia, York, Dauphin, Allegheny, and Erie Counties, collectively.

Map: 2017-18 EITC OSTC Scholarships Awarded by County

What’s more, many EITC-reliant organizations across the commonwealth serve low-income students. For instance, all 450 students at Gesu School in Philadelphia are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and 99 percent are black. With the help of Gesu teachers, 90 percent graduate on time and 85 percent attend college. And in Harrisburg, the Joshua Group provides scholarships to help more than 150 low-income students—90 percent from families earning less than $25,000 annually—attend a private school.

But too many have been denied that chance.

As new data from the state show, the need for educational opportunity in Pa. is high. Despite a $10 million (13 percent) increase in the EITC cap, 49,000 scholarship applications were denied for the 2017-18 school year.

The increases proposed in HB 800 would solve that problem and could empower up to an additional 90,000 students with scholarships within the next five years.

In his 2018 budget address, Gov. Wolf said we must ensure “your zip code doesn’t determine what kind of education you can get.”

We completely agree.

If the Governor means what he says, he’ll sign HB 800 into law and give thousands of kids the chance to thrive in a school that meets their needs.