When House Democrats posted their social-media support for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, state Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) raised an eyebrow.
“I wasn’t aware supporting something means voting against it,” he posted.
Members of the House Appropriations Committee were in Bucks County Thursday as part of their “Pennsylvania Education Tour.” A post on X (formerly Twitter) from the Democrats on the committee read:
“Tune in to today’s #PennsylvaniaEducationTour public hearing. Our panels will discuss supporting public schools and the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) & Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC).”
Only one problem, Republicans noted: Every House Democrat, including those declaring their “support” in Bucks County, voted against a $150 million increase to the EITC/OSTC programs pushed by the GOP.
“House Democrats are playing political games instead of supporting educational opportunities for our children. You cannot vote against something and then say you support it,” said state Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks), who attended the event in Lansdale. “You cannot say you care about kids in consistently failing schools and then take away a bipartisan, proven program that helps them escape. Instead of politics, we need to support educational opportunities for our students – their futures and the commonwealth’s future depends on it.”
Speaking with suburban voters, Democrats like state Rep. Jordan A. Harris (D-Philadelphia) talked up their support for the tax credits, meant to help families choose educational options other than public schools. “I personally have been supportive and continue to support [EITC],” Harris said.
State Rep. Steven Malagari (D-Lansdale) asked, “What can we do to still be helpful to [private schools] understanding there are challenges that we still have to answer?” He also described his previous support of EITC/OSTC, saying, “There is a need in the community for these programs. They’ve been utilized.”
But it was a different story the day before when the entire House Democratic caucus voted against a bill that would have included $150 million in EITC scholarship funding. Thanks to their one-vote majority in the House, they passed a different bill that kept the funding out.
“Guess that falls under ‘level funding and increased funding are cuts,’” Grove quipped.
School choice supporters say Democrat opposition to empowering parents is driven by the party’s dependence on teachers’ unions for money and election season manpower.
In Bucks County, Harris attempted to portray Democratic opposition to the EITC program as merely a transparency issue. “You can’t tell me nothing about where the money is going,” he said during the hearing. “And I do think that is problematic for our members. That should not be a partisan issue.”
What he claimed to believe was that “if there was more reporting, more accountability, and if there was testing to see where students are,” the caucus might support the credits. Harris suggested taxpayers are also interested in knowing that EITC money goes to “the families that we say it should go to.”
However, private school administrators told the committee they already do standardized assessments.
“We presently use some of the testing that the public schools use,” said Michael Marrone, President and Founder of Liguori Academy in Philadelphia. “As far as the Keystones and those tests…if it’s going to help us to identify areas where we need to improve in students, absolutely.”
Politz Hebrew Academy Head of School Besie Katz said that the school also tests students and previously changed its math curriculum to improve student learning.
Both Katz and Marrone agreed their schools would be willing to turn over certain data in hopes of improving transparency.
They also implored the state House to pass EITC/OSTC funding so students could get needed money to attend school. “The window is closing very quickly now,” said Katz. “Our families do not make $101,000 combined…our families struggle to pay. Our tuition is $12,500…the average family pays $3,000, and we have to fill in the rest.”