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Lowman Henry
Lowman Henry

Lincoln Blog

by Lowman S. Henry

Tax Credit is Not School Choice

June 12, 2012

The latest maneuver on the battleground of giving parents' more control over their children's education is a plan by State Representative Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) to create an Education Improvement Scholarship Credit which would be very similar to the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program already in existence, but the new program would be targeted to the lowest 15% performing schools in the state.

The Christiana proposal, like the EITC, is an excellent idea and ought to be adopted.

It is not, however, a substitute for real school choice.

And there is the rub. Some legislators are looking to pacify an increasingly politically active school choice movement by enacting the scholarship tax credit and claiming they have moved Pennsylvania toward school choice.

They have not.

First, school choice must be universal - allowed to cut across all income and performance lines. The fact remains tax dollars for education belong to the taxpayers - not to the state government or to the school district. Those dollars ought to be portable with parents determining what school and school district best suits their child's individual needs.

It is all well and good to focus first on students in under-performing schools; Senate Bill # 1 does that. But, Senate Bill # 1 has languished in the House for nearly a year. Despite having been designated the most important piece of legislation in the Senate this session, the lower chamber has failed in its responsibility to at least bring the bill up for a vote. There may or may not be enough votes to pass it, but we should at least get a roll call so we know where every member of the General Assembly stands.

The Christiania proposal is good legislation.

But supporters of school choice should not allow lawmakers off the hook by claiming it is school choice.

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