Wolf’s Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Governor Wolf talks the talk.

In his 2018 budget address, he called for ensuring “your zip code doesn’t determine what kind of education you can get.” In his 2019 address, Wolf said he wanted to “make sure that our children’s opportunities are not restricted by his or her zip code.” The governor’s Schools That Teach initiative aims to “support and improve educational opportunities for all students—regardless of their zip code.”

A reasonable person would conclude the governor supports parents trying to find the best school for their children.

Unfortunately for families throughout Pennsylvania, today Wolf showed he doesn’t walk the walk.

Under current law, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, which provide scholarships for students to attend the school of their choice, are limited by arbitrary caps. As a result, around half of all scholarship applications are denied each year.

House Bill 800 would have transformed the EITC by allowing it to grow to meet student needs. For kids who need another option—especially kids in violent or failing schools—HB 800 offered a lifeline.

By vetoing HB 800, Gov. Wolf turned his back on those kids. Despite attending and sending his own kids to private schools, the governor chose to deny that option to thousands of Pennsylvania parents.

Why would the governor veto such an important increase? New research from EdChoice shows the EITC and OSTC have saved taxpayers upwards of $5 billion since 2002, so it wasn’t to save taxpayers money. Businesses wanted to donate millions more in scholarship funds and were waitlisted because of the cap, so it wasn’t a lack of donations. More than 49,000 student applications were denied last year because of the cap, so it wasn’t a lack of need.

A cynic might suspect the governor’s veto was because his friends in the teachers’ unions oppose giving students educational options.

With his HB 800 veto, Wolf denied low- and middle-income families the alternatives he chose for his children. He put his union donors ahead of students.

Ben Franklin noted, “Well done is better than well said.” It’s not enough to talk the talk that education shouldn’t be determined by your zip code. The governor needs to walk the walk.