School choice a hot topic in Pennsylvania
School choice is currently a hot topic in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, according to Amy Hill, communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. Hill was the main speaker at a news conference held Friday afternoon at DuBois Area Catholic School regarding Senate Bill 1. "Senate Bill 1 is a good sort of stepping-off place when we're talking about school choice in Pennsylvania right now," Hill said. "The bill aims to increase the very successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, which has been in existence for about 10 years now."Under the current proposal, funding for the EITC program would be increased to $100 million, Hill explained. "[This increase] would make scholarships available to many, many more students," Hill said. S.B. 1 also proposes the creation of vouchers, referred to as Opportunity Scholarship Grants. "[These vouchers] would first go to the poorest students in areas with chronically failing schools. These are schools where students have had difficulty achieving in reading, writing, math, those kinds of things," Hill said. "There is a very specific definition in state law that determines a failing school or where the schools lie on the achievement scale. But eventually, low-income families, no matter where they go to school, all over the state, will qualify for those vouchers. Parents can use this voucher to pay tuition at any school they choose, public or private."Hill remarked that "it only seems fair" that parents be able to send their children to whichever school, public or private, they believe best fits those students' needs. "Financial realities often preclude parents from having that choice. Parents who pay their school taxes deserve some benefit from those taxes in the form of some assistance in their exercise of their right to choose a non-public school if that's what they, the parents, think is the best choice for their children," Hill said. Hill also remarked that, as it stands, EITC scholarships have already made a difference in the lives of thousands of students across Pennsylvania. "They have a choice in their education, so we know that school choice works for those families," Hill said. She added she believes that, if approved, the voucher program will have a similar impact.