Expanding Educational Opportunities in Pennsylvania
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Pennsylvanians should be proud of the great and varied educational options available to our Commonwealth’s students. Public, nonpublic, charter and parochial schools all provide unique and valuable opportunities to empower our children to pursue their dreams and reach their potential. Last week, I was pleased to support our most recent effort to extend our successful track record of educational choice and excellence in our state.
On Monday, March 13, House members on both sides of the aisle – from Pennsylvania’s urban and rural regions alike – joined together to advance legislation designed to expand the state’s successful tax credit program for educational opportunity scholarships. House Bill 250
, sponsored by Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), which I am proud to co-sponsor, takes a vital step in improving the lives of thousands of young people in our state. The bill may now be considered by the state Senate.
The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs provide children access to non-public schools and extracurricular educational enhancement activities. In exchange for voluntary contributions to scholarship organizations or educational improvement organizations, entities receive partial credits against their state Corporate Net Income Taxes. The contributions benefit organizations that help offset tuition payments for students at many schools and also fund innovative educational activities at both public and nonpublic schools in Pennsylvania. Public school districts in both Clearfield and Elk counties have foundations that benefit from these programs.
The EITC and OSTC programs are perfect examples of successful private-public partnerships. Companies participating in this program provide exciting educational options for Pennsylvania families and make it possible for students to attend the schools that best meet their needs. Without question, the EITC and OSTC programs have had profoundly positive impacts on countless students’ lives. The expansion contained in House Bill 250 will empower even more students to achieve their full potential.
House Bill 250 proposes to increase the total tax credits available statewide under EITC and OSTC from the current level of $175 million to a new level of $250 million. EITC would increase from $125 million in tax credits to $175 million while OSTC would increase under this bill to $75 million, up from its current level of $50 million.
Pennsylvania currently invests billions of dollars in our public education system every year - an investment we are happy to make. State spending alone, however, cannot change the fact that individual students have individual needs. Many students thrive at their local public schools, but others may not. The EITC and OSTC programs benefit students by bringing more resources into our education system while incentivizing creativity and innovation in achieving better student outcomes. By empowering families to find what works best for their children regardless of their economic means, the EITC and OSTC programs have been successful in achieving better individualized outcomes, especially for students in low- and middle-income families.
House Bill 250 will undoubtedly bridge the gap and level the playing field for many families while giving local businesses an opportunity to invest in the community. It can open up new avenues for parents who want something better for their kids but may not have the financial means to provide it.
Education is not a “one-size-fits-all” commodity. Individual opportunities for all students will lead to successful outcomes across the board. I was proud to vote in favor of this bill, and I encourage my Senate colleagues to act quickly and send House Bill 250 to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for his signature so that we can expand opportunities for all and reach toward the most noble of goals – a brighter future for our children.
Questions about this legislation or any state-related matter may be directed to my St. Marys office at (814) 781-6301.
Representative Matt Gabler
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Scott Little