Letter to the Editor: Feel-good Scholarship Tax Break No Substitute

The Philadelphia Inqurier 10/17/14

ISSUE | PAYING FOR SCHOOLS

Feel-good scholarship tax break no subsitute

The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC), however well-intentioned, divert desperately needed funds from Philadelphia public schools ("Scholarships offer lifeline to Pa. students," Oct. 10).

Although they're billed as business donations, taxpayers foot almost the entire bill for the programs, paying up to 90 percent of the elementary and secondary school scholarships and 100 percent of those given to students attending pre-K programs. The taxpayer cost makes these tax credits publicly funded school vouchers, plain and simple.

An average voucher of $1,000 does not make private school any more affordable for low-income students. Whether children who receive the scholarships perform better or even graduate from the schools they attend is unknown. The program operates without transparency, with state agencies prohibited from collecting all but the most basic information on student recipients, the schools that educate them, and student performance.

More students would get a chance at future success if the state picked up its fair share of school funding, particularly for the poor districts hurt most by recent budget cuts. Clearly, good intentions are not enough.

Waslala Miranda, education policy analyst, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Harrisburg