I would like to respond to your recent editorial “SB 299: a Step in the Completely Wrong Direction.”
You do not mention the thousands of students who are turned away from Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship program each year. In doing so, you close your eyes to the plight of our state’s most vulnerable.
As an administrator at Immanuel Christian School in Hazleton, each day I have the privilege of seeing at-risk children served by EITC and OSTC scholarships. Right now I can see the face of one student of ours with developmental issues, whose parents were desperate to provide him with an educational environment that is a much beer fit for him than his previous public school situation.
Your article downplays his need for the right educational fit, implying it is no different than the “demand for road and bridge repairs.” That is simply not true. There is a huge difference.
Helping these kids get scholarships requires no tax increase as you claim it does. Right now, the average EITC scholarship is just $1,658 while the average public school cost per student is $17,400. An EdChoice audit found the EITC program alone actually saved taxpayers more than $1 billion!
Kids aren’t a commodity that we can reduce to dollars and cents. And EITC/OSTC expands educational opportunities all across our state. It is also important to note that a significant portion of tax credit funds are used by public school students. Grants are made to after-school programs, extra-curricular seminars, libraries, museums, neighborhood edu-farms, and other Educational Improvement Organizations — all freely available to public schoolers.
The issue at stake in SB 299 is really about giving scholarship opportunities for students in struggling public school districts. The academic achievement gap between students from low-income and upper-income families continues to widen and for students from low-income families (as well as for families of color) a subpar education has seemingly become the norm. Imagine the contribution to society from students who grow up in a culture of care with an education that meets their unique needs.
SB 299 is about boosting educational opportunity to match the demands of families looking for better options. To do otherwise is to deny the thousands of Pennsylvania students whose future is currently determined by their zip code and who are without those opportunities.
Administrator / Development, Immanuel Christian School, Hazleton