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  • Pennsylvania Pushing for Educational Opportunity

    Pennsylvania School Choice Rally

    Families and students in the nation’s capital won big over the weekend, as Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) secured language to reauthorize and expand the acclaimed D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program as part of the long-term continuing resolution. This week, legislators not too far north in Pennsylvania have the opportunity to expand school choice for students in their state.

    Just yesterday, Pennsylvania’s Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill—The Opportunity Scholarship Act—to extend school choice under Pennsylvania’s existing Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. In the next day or two, a floor vote is expected. Currently available to low- and middle-income students, the expanded EITC (not to be confused with the federal Earned Income Tax Credit) would raise the family income level so that more children would be eligible to attend a private school of their choice. Additionally, the legislation would provide state-funded opportunity scholarships to low-income students who attend the state’s lowest-performing schools.

    Since 2001, Pennsylvania’s EITC program has opened the door for low-income students to attend private schools of their choice by providing tax credits to businesses that donate to eligible scholarship-granting organizations. Eligible students are then able to apply to the organizations for a scholarship, which they can use at participating private schools. There is a high level of demand—for example, the Commonwealth Foundation notes that “the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia had 95,000 applications for the 7,700 scholarships it awarded over the last 12 years”— showing that school choice is highly prized by Pennsylvania families.

    Not only does the tax credit program benefit families, but it also saves taxpayer dollars. Estimates show that Pennsylvania’s EITC program saves the state nearly $500 million each year, due to students leaving higher-cost public schools to attend lower-cost private schools. For the same reason, the newly proposed opportunity scholarships would also save taxpayer money at the local level. For example, the school district of Harrisburg spends approximately $17,000 per student, whereas the opportunity scholarships available through the program would cost only $9,000 each.

    The District of Columbia saw school choice play out similarly. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program provides scholarships worth $7,500, while the D.C. public schools spend more than $18,000 per pupil annually. For less than half of what is spent in D.C. Public Schools, students in the D.C. voucher program have achieved higher graduation rates and parents are more satisfied with their children’s schools. Not surprisingly, there is a high level of community support.

    Pennsylvania’s move to expand school choice is one of many efforts underway across the nation to reform education and give families greater control of their children’s academic futures. From D.C. to Florida, from the suburbs of New Jersey to the heartland of Indiana, legislators are taking action to reform education. Now Pennsylvania has its moment to expand educational options and offer the possibility of a successful future for so many of its children.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Pennsylvania Pushing for Educational Opportunity

    1. LibertyAtStake, Alex says:

      The NEA fears shool choice because they are afraid their teachers are too dumb to teach empowered students. Heh.

      "Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive"

    2. Rachael Mazzoni, Pit says:

      Proud to be from Pennsylvania and proud to have voted for Corbett. He's going to turn this state around from the trainwreck we were headed for with Rendell at the helm. More educational spending does not, and never has equaled more achievement. I am glad our governor understands that. I am a PSU alum (who endured my tuition nearly doubling in the 4 years I was there when subsidies were also doubled from the state) and I am disgusted at the crybaby comments their leadership has been making. Many of us took pay cuts the last few years to keep our jobs, all businesses and educational facilities need to do the same.

    3. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      I hope somebody is watching the details of the new Charter Schools as to whether they actually present a Curriculum that is vaguely American! These Commies have been so insistant that everybody be Socialized in Public School that I wonder if they are so Half Vast today they have reached into the Curriculum of Private Schools! If they hadn't, they would never allow Public Funding! "Oh well! We won't credit your Children's education if you don't have them read Commie Textbooks on all your subjects!" No kidding! That's what Accreditation Committees have done all along! "Comrade! You must study crap!"

      Hooray for Pennsylvania! It is remarkable that per student costs have skyrocketed but their performance has been flat! Public School is a gigantic failure for purposes of Education, but it has been an incredibly Wild Success at Socializing Americans. Look! They elected Obama!

    4. Adam, Philadelphia says:


      Those who stand to gain the most from choice – in terms of improving upon the schools in their district and in terms of the dignity one gains from freedom – are kept from making any choices they can afford. There is a psychological term called learned helplessness. To summarize:

      "Learned helplessness is a phenomenon in which individuals gradually, usually as a result of repeated failure or control by others, become less willing to attempt tasks." (D.D. Smith, 2001)

      "Learned helplessness" offered a model to explain human depression, in which apathy and submission prevail, causing the individual to rely fully on others for help. This can result when life circumstances cause the individual to experience life choices as irrelevant.

      Therefore, the issue of school choice is a critical one for combating the cycle of poverty in which many people feel trapped. The obvious first reason is that kids going to better schools have more opportunities to break out of that cycle of poverty as educated adults. The less obvious reason is the psychological empowerment that choice allows.

      A variety of studies have shown that loss of control can lead to depression, feelings of extreme stress, and eventual loss of health (Myers, 2002). On the other hand, in situations where subjects felt that they had even a small amount of control, they reported being happier and healthier (Myers, 2002).

      "Education is a constant process for the liberation of human beings."

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