The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, administered by Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, is a pernicious program that, in my view, harms the most vulnerable children in our city’s school district. The program encourages families to opt out of our district to attend private schools, to the tune of millions of dollars of taxpayer money that would have otherwise been directed to our schools. Through this program, families are encouraged to leave our district and apply for private school scholarships.
Unfortunately, those schools often don’t want students who struggle academically and may need a lot of support. Who loses in this system? Not just the most vulnerable in our community, but all children.
Research shows that all children learn best when surrounded by students from a wide variety of academic and socioeconomic backgrounds. These benefits not only include higher test scores and critical-thinking skills, but also empathy, compassion and better health outcomes, especially for children of color. Unfortunately, most children in our community don’t get these benefits. And the tax credit is partly to blame. The worst part is that after desirable students are poached from districts like ours, politicians can label those districts as “failing,” justifying withholding much-needed funds these districts deserve and require. It’s a vicious cycle.
It's time to end the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit. Opportunity for a few means fewer opportunities for many, with dire consequences for all. The program is not effective, it exacerbates racial divides, and it doesn’t improve educational outcomes for the very students in purports to help.