Jesica is a mother of three in Mercer County. She considered sending her children to the local Catholic school, but she knew they couldn’t afford it. She also knew that she never wanted to make her children switch schools. She had to do that several times as a child, and she hated it. So when she and her husband enrolled their oldest child, James, in the local public school, she thought they’d stay there until graduation.
When her youngest daughter, Ziva, was in first grade, Jesica and her husband went for a conference at the end of the first quarter. Ziva’s teacher and the school support staff said their daughter couldn’t learn and couldn’t read. The school seemed to have given up on Ziva, so Jesica decided to check out the local catholic school, St. Michael, to see if there was another solution.
The principal at St. Michael was sure they could help Ziva. She also explained that financial aid was available through Pennsylvania’s Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). Jesica and her husband had the children spend a trial day at St. Michael, and all three decided to switch—even though it was the middle of the school year. The support staff at the public school tried to talk the family out of changing schools, telling Jesica that the Catholic school didn’t have the resources to help students like Ziva.
In the first week, Ziva had her first spelling test … which she aced. She is now in third grade and loves school. She is “nailing it all,” according to her mom, and no longer needs extra help. Her sister Skye, a sixth-grader, had problems with bullying at her previous school; she no longer deals with bullies and is quite happy at St. Michael. James, who is now in eighth grade, was doing well at his old school, but he is flourishing now with more one-on-one attention.
The EITC and OSTC (Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit) programs help thousands of children attend the schools that work for them. Unfortunately, thousands more are turned away each year due to arbitrary government-imposed caps on the programs.
National School Choice Week is a great time to celebrate the diverse educational options that are available to kids throughout Pa. But it’s also a time to focus on increasing available options, so no child must stay in a school that isn’t working. By raising the caps on our tax credit scholarship programs, we can give kids like Ziva the chance to shine.