Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is expected to propose wide-ranging school reform legislation as early as Oct. 11 which would also include school choice legislation in the form of an increase in the Educational Incentive Tax Credit (EITC) and vouchers which could be spent at any school by parents or guardians of children who attend targeted low-performing public schools, many of which are within the City of Philadelphia.

At this time Pennsylvania offers state tax credits to businesses that fund scholarships to primary and secondary schools within the Commonwealth including religious schools. The total credits allocated for this program this year is $75 million, an amount the Governor is expected to ask be increased to at least $100 million. Pennsylvania does not have a voucher program of any kind.

“The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania see school choice as a defining social justice issue of our society,” The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said in a Sept. 28 statement. “Legislation currently being considered in Harrisburg could herald a new, more just era for education in Pennsylvania – an era in which we focus on the ideal educational environment  for each student, not a mandatory system  in which students are assigned to a school based solely on geographic location. The current treatment of these children, particularly children from low-income families, is unjust and inequitable.”

The release went on to say, “The Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania support school choice legislation that includes a voucher program and an increase in the successful EITC program.”

According to the release, Pennsylvania has more than 500 Catholic schools that “educate both Catholics and non-Catholics in an academically excellent and nurturing environment. This essential service not only helps to create new generations of productive and educated citizens but also saves over $4 billion tax dollars annually.”

Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is chairman of the PCC, said “The debate over school vouchers and an increase in EITC funding is a pivotal moment for education in Pennsylvania. School choice is more than about an education; it’s also about opportunity, justice and parental rights. Its goal is always the same – to empower parents to educate their children as they judge best, and to provide poor families with alternatives and real opportunities to succeed.”

Any proposals in education reform presented by Governor Corbett would have to be acted upon by the two houses in the legislature before he could sign them into law.

The Bishops are calling upon the Catholic community to visit, call, write or send an email message through the Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network to their elected officials urging them to pass the bill.

See www.archphila.org for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia full statement on School Choice.

To find the mailing address and telephone number of your state legislators go to www.legis.state.pa.us and type in your address in the appropriate boxes.