Record Demand for School Choice in PA, Yet Majority of Students Denied Aid

Feb 18, 2022 | 0 comments

The evidence is clear: Pennsylvania parents and students want more school choice options. And the state is failing to deliver financial help to the majority of these families.

New data, thanks to Right-to-Know requests filed by the Commonwealth Foundation, reveals a record number of families — over 137,000 — applied for the successful Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs for the 2019-2020 school year.

The state of Pennsylvania has reached the highest number of scholarships awarded ever – but the majority of families applying were denied due to lack of available funds. While a record 62,000 families received a scholarship, helping students across the Commonwealth obtain a better opportunity for success in school, the majority of students and families that applied (over 75,000) were unable to receive a scholarship. 

PA Family sees this need first-hand. Our Family Choice Scholarship Program is one of over 250 scholarship organizations that award EITC/OSTC scholarships. While we’re able to help many parents afford the school option that best fits the needs of their child, the sad reality is we have to turn away over 75% of our applicants every year due to lack of funding.

More from the Commonwealth Foundation:

  • In 2019–20, K–12 students submitted 137,000 scholarship applications, 34,000 more than the previous year and the highest on record. Between the 2018–19 and 2019–20 school years, scholarship applications increased 33 percent.
  • In 2019–20, individuals and businesses donated a record $190 million for K–12 student scholarships. 

Yet program caps still deny scholarships to thousands of students.

  • Even with the 2019 tax credit expansion of the EITC and OSTC programs, a record of 75,651 K-12 student scholarship applications received denials. In other words, program limits turned away 55 percent of student scholarship applications. 
  • In 2019, program caps waitlisted $116 million in business donations to K-12 EITC and OSTC scholarships.

More students were denied a tax credit scholarship than were accepted. Pennsylvania families are clearly eager to exercise the existing school choice options and there is clearly a great need to expand access to these options.

We need to find solutions to help every family that applies for assistance. State policy proposals like Senate Bill 527, which would provide an automatic escalator to the amount of funding for the EITC and OSTC programs, would help meet this growing need.

Senate Bill 527 would ensure that if at least 90% of the previous year’s tax credits are allocated, both the EITC and OSTC programs will receive a 25% increase in funding. If passed, this would effectively end the waitlist for tax credit scholarships by 2025, giving those 75,000 denied students the opportunity to receive the best educational experience possible suited to their needs.

Please contact your PA state legislators and let them know that Senate Bill 527 is needed in Pennsylvania.