The EITC allows businesses to receive tax credits for donating to scholarship organizations which then award scholarships to families who want to opt out of their assigned public school in favor of a participating private or public school.
Situated on the Ben Franklin Parkway in the heart of Philadelphia – midway between Logan Circle and Love Park – Friends Select School traces its roots to 1689 and the start of Quaker education in the city.
The school is steeped in the Quaker values of “respect for all, simplicity, the peaceful resolution of conflict, and a constant search for truth.” Parents who want their children to receive a comprehensive education that develops spirit, intellect, and body can send them to Friends Select – at a cost ranging from $25,500 per year for Pre-K to $41,750 per year for high school.
It’s little wonder that many parents whose zip code assigns them to Philadelphia’s underperforming public schools – where just 37% of students are proficient in literacy, 35% in science, and 22% in math – opt for schools like Friends Select.
If they can afford it.
That’s why I understand why Philadelphia Democrat Rep. Chris Rabb chose Friends Select for his son, who graduated this year and is heading to college this fall. Like all parents, Rep. Rabb wanted his son to receive an exceptional education to prepare him for life.
I only wish Rep. Rabb would support giving other children the same opportunity.
After all, not all of Rep. Rabb’s constituents can afford to spend $41,750 per year on schooling. While his Philadelphia district includes wealthy Chestnut Hill, where the median household income is well over $80,000 per year, it also includes East Mt. Airy, where the median household income is under $41,000 – less than one year’s tuition at Friends Select.
Sadly, while his son attended this elite school, Rabb has opposed giving other families the same chance.
Last legislative session, Rabb voted against a bill that would have allowed tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families – including many in Rabb’s own district to choose a school that better meets their child’s needs.
House Bill 800 would have expanded Pennsylvania’s highly popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit, or EITC, program. The EITC allows businesses to receive tax credits for donating to scholarship organizations which then award scholarships to families who want to opt out of their assigned public school in favor of a participating private or public school.
While scholarships given through the EITC program and its sister program, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program, benefit tens of thousands of low-income students annually, tens of thousands more are stuck on waiting lists thanks to arbitrary program caps.
In fact, the Commonwealth Foundation notes, “Last year alone, nearly 43,000 scholarship applications were denied because of the caps. At the same time, there is a waiting list of donors willing to give more than $121 million to eligible students under the EITC and OSTC programs.”
Friends Select participates in both programs, and the school’s website states that “the benefits to the school and to deserving students are transformational.”
HB800 would have increased the amount of available EITC tax credits from $110 million to $210 million and would have ensured the program would expand as demand grew.
But when the vote came, Rep. Chris Rabb voted “no.”
And that’s not all. Just last month, Rabb echoed his “no” vote by opposing the state budget Gov. Wolf signed, which included a $40 million EITC increase.
Why Rep. Rabb would oppose giving other children in his district the same opportunity he gave his son is anyone’s guess. But hopefully in the future, he’ll recognize that all children, not just some, deserve the opportunity to attend the school that’s best for them.
Calvin R. Tucker is the Managing Director of Eagles Capital Advisors and the Deputy Chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, where he is the Director of Engagement & Advancement. He resides in Philadelphia.