Can Our Kids Afford to Wait While Harrisburg Schools Improve?

Last fall, several House education committee members cited ongoing improvements in Harrisburg City School District as the reason to oppose scholarships for Harrisburg kids.

But are things really getting better?

In a case of tragic irony, a teacher at John Harris High School was fired that very day after being arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. It took more than two months from the time school administrators first found out about the offense until the teacher was let go.

Only three days prior to the November education committee vote, a teacher at Camp Curtin Middle School was suspended for expressing his desire to shoot students.

And in January, a “brawl” at Camp Curtin endangered kids and teachers–offering a stark reminder of the persistent violence in Harrisburg schools.

Harrisburg students are afraid for their safety—and every parent intuitively knows that kids can’t possibly learn when they’re afraid to go to school. Kids in Harrisburg need and deserve immediate relief. They cannot afford to wait while systemic problems are resolved.

This must include any and all options at our disposal, whether it’s Speaker Turzai’s Harrisburg scholarship plan, public charter schools, open enrollment at neighboring districts, or tax credit scholarship expansion.

In addition, Senator Mike Regan has proposed legislation that would allow Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs—Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC)—to keep pace with student demand. Under Senator Regan’s plan, the tax credit caps for each program would increase by 25% if 90% of the respective available credits were claimed the previous year.


Parents should have the ability to choose where their kids go to school.

Sen. Mike Regan


Regan has been a consistent champion for student safety and opportunity, arguing last week that kids learn best when parents are in control of their education. “Parents should have the ability to choose where their kids go to school. . . . We need to work with communities and make sure we’re offering alternatives to failing public schools, and make sure that our kids can learn.”

Regan illustrated the point that EITC and OSTC save lives by telling the story of Lance Deane, a Harrisburg student whose life was transformed by the Joshua Group, a scholarship organization for at-risk youth in the Allison Hill area.

“Lance had no chance—no chance—of ending anywhere else but in jail.” But after tutoring at the Joshua Group, then switching to a charter school, then earning honors in college—grown-up Lance is “not in prison, not dead—but making money, paying taxes, and a valuable contributor to the workforce,” he said.

All children deserve the opportunity to thrive in a school that meets their needs.

But 50,000 student scholarships were denied last year–and Governor Wolf vetoed a plan to end the student waitlist—calling it a “raid on the taxpayer.”

That was wrong, and keeps so many students across our state, especially in Harrisburg, from pursuing better and safer education.

That’s why lawmakers must embrace education choice and opportunity for Pennsylvania families—and urge Wolf to do the same.

Tax credit scholarship expansion, as Sen. Regan has proposed, offers the most immediate, transformative relief for Pennsylvania kids. They can’t afford to wait.