Dani is a natural leader with a head for numbers; she’s a high school basketball player in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 2018, her ship came in: she became a CEO.
Mike hails from Allentown. His dream—to become a classically-trained oil painter—seemed more like a fantasy. That is, until he discovered that America’s leading traditional figurative painter was teaching classes practically next door in Hamburg.
Both of these students—Pennsylvanians with a passion to learn—expanded the horizons of their education through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. They enrolled in Educational Improvement Organizations (EIOs), Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW), and the Armusik Academy of Classical Art.
The EITC program has opened the door to future success for over 50,000 students in our state. This school choice option has transformed lives by enabling low- and middle-income students to escape failing district schools, many in the inner city.
Best of all, 100% of EITC funding comes from tax-credited donations, incentivizing businesses and individuals to give back to their communities in the form of student scholarships. Estimates suggest that tax credit scholarships save taxpayers around 90% of educational costs per student.
But let’s not forget the impact of EITC’s extracurriculars. EIOs take a good education and make it great.
Educational Improvement Organizations like PFEW provide lessons and hands-on training that a typical school doesn’t offer. PFEW is a summer business camp that gives students like Dani the chance to become CEOs of their own company for a week, leading a full team of “employees” made up of peers and mentors.
Dani was enthusiastic about her experience:
“From financial predictions to marketing strategy, the insight was phenomenal. It helped me to solidify a direction for my future career path.”
Over 2,000 Pennsylvania students get to experience this unique opportunity each year. And it’s all thanks to Pennsylvania’s EITC program, says President and CEO Karen Musante:
“The EITC program is a critical component to our success each year. Participating companies provide a substantial percentage of our support, and that support provides opportunities for PA’s high school students to understand and celebrate our American private enterprise system. This is a win-win, because businesses receive a fantastic tax credit while providing students with an education they simply cannot get elsewhere.”
This win-win dynamic carries over to EIOs like Eric Armusik’s art studio in Hamburg, where Pennsylvania’s investment in fine arts extends to the classes and workshops he teaches. He focuses on rigorous skills training and a no-nonsense business approach:
“What’s lacking terribly in most community art programs is business instruction. I can’t stress this enough! Teaching our future artists how to become independent businesspeople is the most beneficial thing a community can do for its future. So many students would like to know how to make art a viable and sustaining career. But there’s precious little good advice—it’s the only profession where ‘do what feels good to you’ is accepted.”
Armusik appreciates outside-the-box thinking about education—hence his support for EITC:
“The EITC scholarship program gives students an advantage they won’t find in conventional education. There is nothing worse than a student with incredible potential lacking the financial means to capitalize on that potential.”
Unfortunately, tax credit scholarships face constant attacks—like this summer, when Governor Tom Wolf vetoed an expansion that would have opened EITC to every student on the waiting list. While lawmakers pushed back and won a partial increase, tens of thousands of students are still having their opportunity denied.
Nevertheless, PFEW Vice President Scott Lee was optimistic:
“Despite receiving dramatically less than what was sought, we are gratified that the EITC program continues to grow—because it ultimately benefits our students, and that is priority number one.”
Tax credit scholarships will always be in demand because families want a choice in the quality of their children’s education. When educational choice includes amazingly diverse options like a business camp and a classical painting studio, it’s obvious why parents would want more than a one-size-fits-all education for their kids. Students across Pennsylvania are engaged and excited about learning that’s different and forward thinking. It’s imperative our education system reflects the same attitude.