The Educational Improvement Tax Credit program in Pennsylvania allows businesses to designate contributions for tax credits which provide scholarship money that levels the playing field and allows families a choice of a quality, private, Christian school for their children. The program has been in place for quite a while, and the legislature has increased the allowable tax credit amount to a total of $50 million in tax credits. It is such a popular program, especially for Christian schools, that all of the tax credits are used in this program.
A newer version of the program, called OSTC for Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit is specifically designated for families who live in a school district that requires their children to attend a school which is rated as "low performing" in the bottom 15% of Pennsylvania schools, based on their test scores. This program was open to the $50 million dollar level as well.
We've been told by legislative leadership that, while the dollar amounts may not increase this year as the budget needs to be tightened, these programs, along with the bussing allocation and the textbook funds, would not be touched by budget cuts.
But earlier this month, the Republican party, which controls both houses, previewed a budget plan which will slash $20 million from the tax credit program for private schools. Apparently, the scholarship program is not safe from the budget slashing axe. In term of what the state spends on its public education, including a significant amount that goes to its failing charter and cyber schools, the money from the tax credits is a drop in the bucket, along with the bus money and the textbook fund.
In order for this to be reversed, the Republican leadership in the legislature needs to hear from us, the families and constituents of the Christian schools in the state. There is a way to do this that is easy, and will take just a few minutes of your time. Go to the ACSIPA website, at http://acsipa.org, and click on the tab that says "Voter Action Center." Click on that tab, and follow the instructions to send the standard message regarding EITC to your legislators, and to the governor. You can also author a message of your own. Legislators count these responses, and it has an effect on their decisions.
The reason that EITC is on the potential chopping block, in the Republican party, is that our votes and support are taken for granted. Unless these leaders understand that these issues are important to us, by hearing from more than just a few administrators on a lobby committee, we will continue to lose ground. It's been the Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature that have sustained this program, and even promised to move forward on the issue of school choice in Pennsylvania. But this action shows that we aren't moving forward, and that we might even lose the few gains in this area that we have made.
The impact this would have on Christian schools in Pennsylvania, where over 100 Christian schools have closed in the past decade, would be devastating. It is a major concern for us, where 40% of our families receive some level of financial aid from EITC, including some who are from the school districts that are in the lowest 15%. We receive very little of the tax money that we pay which goes to education, yet what we accomplish, in terms of both Christian distinctiveness and academics, far exceeds what the state gets out of their money.
I encourage you to go to the website and help us out.