HARRISBURG, May 7, 2014 — Standing with dozens of Pennsylvania children who are attending schools chosen freely for them by their parents, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams today said it is more important than ever for them to continue reminding lawmakers of how important the Educational Improvement Tax Credit is to their learning and future success.
This is the 13th anniversary for Pennsylvania’s EITC.
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“Do not assume that EITC will survive this budget or the next budget,” Sen. Williams said during a rally on the Capitol’s front steps. “It requires, every year, for us to be back here. It requires, every year, for you to be organized, like you are, to come back here and not say to the government, ‘Oh, please.’ No, it requires you to come back to the government to say, ‘Give me mine!’ Williams said to cheering and applause.
The commonwealth’s EITC delivers a 75 percent tax credit to companies that donate to a non-profit scholarship or educational improvement organization. The tax credit increases to 90 percent if a company agrees to make the same donation for two straight years.
The Educational Improvement Tax Credit and its companion program, Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, provide children and families with a choice in where they will continue their education. That choice also offers them a better chance at learning and leading a better life.
“For every young person sitting here, there was a period of my life where I could have gone left or I could have gone right. I could have been in the state Capitol or I could have been in the state pen,” Williams said. “The difference that allowed me to be free to end up in the state capitol with a degree economics, to choose my career was my education. My education was given to me because somebody had the vision to give me a scholarship.
“I got the ability to experience a part of the world that I would not because … somebody cared about Tony Williams before Tony Williams cared about himself,” he said.
Pennsylvania currently budgets $100 million for EITC. Scholarship organizations receive 60 percent of that funding while 30 percent is delivered to innovative educational improvement programs in public schools, and the balance is invested in a separate pre-kindergarten scholarship program.
While the current political environment could jeopardize the EITC’s future, Sen. Williams said the tax credit should be safe if lawmakers and candidates can be reminded that it makes a difference to students and communities.
“The least we should expect of our government is that they should care about all of us whether we’re Democrat, Republican; whether we are black or white; Catholic, Presbyterian or Baptist,” he said to more applause. “And, they should care about us whether we choose to go to a Catholic school, public school, neighborhood school, private school, parochial school. It should be our choice.
“I’m tired of pretending and being nice to (critics). I am no longer required to be somewhat polite to someone who is, literally, assaulting children every day by taking away their right to choose and their parent’s right to choose,” the senator said.
The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, or OSTC, is a $50 million program that delivers scholarships to students currently enrolled in public schools that are ranked among the lowest 15 percent of underperforming districts throughout Pennsylvania.
OSTC scholarships allow eligible students to withdraw from their school district and enroll at a public school outside of their district or at a non-public school.
Today’s Capitol rally was organized by the REACH Alliance, which is a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting and expanding school choice in Pennsylvania, as well as tuition tax credits, charter schools and home schooling.