Pa. private school tax credit may get boost after two-day debate

The state Capitol building in Harrisburg. (Tom Downing/WITF)

The state Capitol building in Harrisburg. (Tom Downing/WITF)

The state House has passed a contentious proposal that would boost scholarships for private school students.

The amount of money up for debate wasn’t huge by the Capitol’s standards. But lawmakers saw the bill as a symbol of the tension between funding public and private schools.

The measure would increase funds for the Education Improvement Tax Credit by $100 million — nearly doubling the amount available —and include an automatic 10% increase if it’s all used.

The money goes to businesses that donate to scholarships and similar programs for private school students.

Floor debate stretched over two days.

Opponents, like Luzerne County Democratic Representative Jim Carroll, said it’s unfair to put so much money toward private schools when the proposed increase for public schools is relatively small.

“I’m hopeful the supporters of this proposal are equally supportive of additional funds beyond $200 million for basic education,” he said. “How about special ed?”

The proposal would also increase the salary cap for recipients’ parents, from $85,000 to $95,000 annually.

It’s sponsored by Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who argued it’s about school choice.

“There’s only one monopolistic school system that should be allowed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?” he asked sarcastically. “Oh, there’s freedom.”

The plan passed on a mostly party-line vote and now goes to the Senate.

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