Pennsylvania Joins The School Choice Movement

By Rick Gonzales | 4 months ago

pennsylvania school choice

It’s the first step for parents and their children in Pennsylvania, but it is a big step. Pennsylvania’s Senate Education Committee just passed a bill by a 7-4 vote that would give more money toward funding students and not school systems. Although a huge step forward for school choice, there is still plenty of work left to be done.

When in effect, Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 527, which was prime sponsored by Senator Mike Regan, will automatically raise the caps by 25% annually for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Scholarship (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. This “automatic” rise comes only if at least 90% of the credits were claimed in the previous year.

“Senate Bill 527 will correct the funding imbalance that stifles school choice for thousands of families,” Sen. Regan said via the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans website. “Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs have been recognized as national models for school choice and I thank my colleagues for supporting this important step toward expansion that will ensure our state continues to lead for decades to come.”

This bill would increase the scholarship programs by $100 million annually, a figure that represents less than 1% of the money Pennsylvania spends on public education every year. That figure sits at $30 billion. According to Sen. Regan, if the state were to invest this extra money, thus passing it along to parents and their school of choice, it could potentially translate into $7.4 billion additional lifetime earnings for those who were able to gain a greater educational choice. Sen. Regan also estimates that because of a better choice, it could potentially save an additional $260 million from social costs attributed to crime.

“Some of these kids may never get the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty or an inevitable life of crime and prison because their taxpayer-funded public schools continue to fail to provide them the education and support they need to break the cycle,” Sen. Regan said. “Ultimately, this is about lives. Changing and improving the lives of young people.”

As it stands right now, the Pennsylvania EITC program gets $225 million annually while the OSTC program receives $55 million. These amounts provide scholarships for over 48,000 students and families who are looking for education outside their assigned district public school. In 2021, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly approved an increase to the EITC program of $40 million. The $40 million provided scholarships for an additional 13,000 students who were in need of funding.

Pennsylvania’s effort to give more choice to parents in deciding the best route for their children is just one of the many seen lately. Parents across the nation have simply had enough. A two-year COVID pandemic that has seen schools shut down, only to open and then shut down again, has put many families in a bad spot. Teachers’ unions are flexing their muscles with demands and if these demands are not met, they decide to strike and close down schools.

Parents are fighting for choice. They want to be able to take their public-school tax funds and use them where they see fit. If homeschool is their option, then they want to use those funds. If they decide to take their child to private schools, they would like to use these funds to help pay for tuition. Thankfully, parents aren’t alone in the effort to gain school choices for parents. They have many politicians lined up to lead the cause as well.

Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey has been at the forefront of this battle. He feels parents should be able to take their money wherever they want to better their child’s education. In fact, Gov. Ducey just proclaimed that January 23-29, 2022 to be School Choice Week in the state.

As for parents in Pennsylvania, a large part of the battle is complete. With the bill being passed by the Senate Education Committee, they have one hurdle remaining. Next stop, the bill will go before the Arizona Senate for a full Senate vote.