Recently, the Pennsylvania House approved HB800 which expands funds for school vouchers in Pennsylvania. The funds for these vouchers are provided through the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC), which allows corporations to underwrite tuition at private and religious schools in lieu of paying their state taxes.

House Bill 800 provides an additional $100 million-dollar tax break to corporations bringing the total tax break available to $210 million. A built-in 10 percent annual increase would bring the tax credit to as much as $544 million over the next 10 years without any further legislative action. With this change, annual income for families receiving vouchers from this program can be as high as $95,000 and this amount increases for each additional child in the family participating in the program. In other words, the families getting this tax money may be more privileged than the advocates of this bill claim.

At their core, voucher programs are designed to provide public tax money to individuals so that they can spend that money on private or religious schools. Most voters in PA oppose these kinds of programs because they understand that funding vouchers will take money away from public schools. Those who do support such programs are often already sending their kids to private schools and are interested in having taxpayers subsidize the cost of that private schooling.

It is important to remember that traditional public schools educate 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s children and that even struggling districts provide students with valuable learning experiences and support that simply aren’t available elsewhere. The loss in state revenue for public schools is even more troubling considering that Pennsylvania already ranks 47th among states in school funding from state sources. Rather than funnel public tax dollars to private schools that only serve a small percentage of the state’s population, urge your state senators to reject this expansion in the EITC and support our public schools.

Abe Feuerstein and Sue Ellen Henry,

Professors of Education

at Bucknell University.