School choice advocates are celebrating a victory in Harrisburg! Governor Tom Corbett signed the tax code bill that expands the existing Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, eliminates the delay for some companies that wish to contribute, and creates another category of tax-credit supported scholarships called EITC 2.0 targeted at students in neighborhoods with perpetually underperforming public schools.
Both EITC 1.0 and EITC 2.0 programs are funded by companies that contribute to scholarship organizations in exchange for a tax credit. The longstanding EITC 1.0 program has helped tens of thousands of students attend the school of their choice, including Catholic schools. The EITC 2.0 program will help thousands more by creating special scholarships particularly for income eligible students in the lowest performing 15 percent of public schools.
This legislation also authorizes school districts to elect to establish their own scholarship grant program, using the state subsidy, for students who want to attend nonpublic schools or public schools in other districts.
“It took political courage in a tough budget year to invest in educational reforms for low and middle income families,” said Dr. Robert J. O’Hara Jr., executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC). “But the students and parents who will benefit are grateful to legislators and the governor for the chance to pursue a better future immediately.”
The state budget allocates $100 million for EITC ($25 million more than last year) and another $50 million for the new EISC program.
Sean McAleer, PCC’s director of education, commended Gov. Tom Corbett, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Senate Majority Leader Dominic Piliggi (R-Delaware), Sen. Jeffrey Piccola (R-Dauphin), Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia), Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R-Indiana), House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) and Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Philadelphia) for their leadership.
“But the real champions of school choice are the members of our Catholic Advocacy Network,” he said. “Thousands of concerned parents, teachers, parishioners, taxpayers and students took their civic responsibility seriously and contacted state lawmakers in support of school choice.”
The Bishops of Pennsylvania declared school choice to be a defining social justice issue of our society. This expansion of EITC moves Pennsylvania one step closer to a system of education that truly reinforces that parents – not the state – are the primary educators of their children.
Who qualifies for scholarships?
EITC 1.0 scholarships are available to students with a household income of $60,000 per year plus $12,000 per dependent. So a family of four making up to $84,000 per year may qualify for an EITC scholarship.
Next year the base income increases to $75,000 per year and $15,000 per dependent. These scholarships are available to all families, regardless of where they live.
EITC 2.0 or EISC scholarships are reserved for students who live within the geographic boundary of one of the 15 percent lowest performing public schools. Families earning less than 185 percent of the federal poverty line (or about $43,000 per year for a family of four) and families in certain financially distressed school districts are given a priority.
Scholarships may be awarded up to $8,500 ($15,000 for special education students), but not to exceed actual tuition and fees.
What companies can get a tax credit?
Companies that do business in Pennsylvania and pay certain taxes (search “EITC” at www.newpa.comfor a complete list) may receive a tax credit for their contribution to a scholarship organization.
The tax credits awarded to businesses will be equal to 75 percent of their contribution amount, which can be increased to 90 percent upon the business committing for two years. Businesses may receive a maximum credit of $400,000 this year and $750,000 next year ($200,000 for Pre-K contributions).
All companies compete for the tax credits by submitting their applications on the same deadline (July 1). A lag-period for pass-through entities has been eliminated.
When does the program start?
Immediately. Students may apply for scholarships now to attend the school of their choice this fall.
Who do we thank?
School choice advocates should thank Gov. Tom Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, but also the local lawmakers listed below. If your legislator is on this list, visit, call, write or email him or her through the Catholic Advocacy Network at www.pacatholic.org.
Legislators in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who voted in favor of school choice:
William F. Adolph, Jr.
Stephen E. Barrar
Margo L. Davidson
Paul I. Clymer
John T. Galloway
Joseph T. Hackett
Michael F. Gerber
Robert W. Godshall
Kate M. Harper
William F. Keller
Thomas H. Killion
Michael P. McGeehan
Nicholas A. Micozzie
Kevin J. Boyle
Scott A. Petri
Thomas J. Quigley
John J. Taylor
Katharine M. Watson
Andrew E. Dinniman
Edwin B. Erickson
Stewart J. Greenleaf
Vincent J. Hughes
Shirley M. Kitchen
Charles T. McIlhinney
Dominic F. Pileggi
John C. Rafferty, Jr.
Michael J. Stack, III
Christine M. Tartaglione
Robert M. Tomlinson
Michael W. Brubaker
LeAnna M. Washington
Anthony H. Williams
A. B. Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at www.pacatholic.org, www.facebook.com/pacatholic, and www.twitter.com/pacatholic.