HARRISBURG—Legislation sponsored by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) to increase scholarships for students attending economically disadvantaged schools has passed the House.
“We must find ways to reach more students trapped in underperforming schools,” White said. “My legislation will change the Public School Code so more schools that are failing our kids would qualify as a disadvantaged schools and give their students the chance to earn a scholarship and find a school to provide them a better education. While the Economically Disadvantaged Schools program has had a positive impact for some families in Pennsylvania, changes are needed to fine tune the program and to meet increased demand.”
House Bill 1642
would change the Public School Code to change the economically disadvantaged school threshold from at least 75% to 51% of students receiving an Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit scholarship in the previous school year.
The legislation would also allow eligible elementary and middle school students to receive up to $2,000 in scholarships, and eligible high school students to receive up to $4,000. Currently, eligible students can receive up to $1,000.
The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program provides tax credits to eligible businesses that contribute to an Opportunity Scholarship Organization. Those contributions are used by Opportunity Scholarship organizations to provide tuition assistance in the form of scholarships that eligible students attending a low-achieving school can use to attend a non-public school or a public school outside of their district.
A low-achieving school is defined as a public elementary or secondary school ranking in the bottom 15% of its designation as an elementary or secondary school based upon combined math and reading Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores.
Students are eligible to receive a scholarship if their household’s annual income is no greater than $96,676 plus $17,017 for each dependent member of the household. For the 2021-22 school year, the maximum scholarship award available to non-special education students is $8,500 and the maximum for a special education student is $15,000.
“This is a rare government program that creates win-win-win situations,” White said. “School districts and taxpayers win by saving money. The most recent figures show Pennsylvania spends more than $18,000 per student in public schools. Meanwhile, the average scholarship is just $1,800—a savings of 90%. Businesses win because they are able to support local schools in their communities and receive a partial credit on their state taxes. And, most importantly, students win by being able to attend the schools that work for them.”
The bill now moves to the Senate.
Representative Martina White
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster