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Part 3: Who Benefits From It?

(Construction is underway on a new building on the campus of the Agnes Irwin School, in Rosemont, Pa.  Credit: Pat Loeb)

(Construction is underway on a new building on the campus of the Agnes Irwin School, in Rosemont, Pa. Credit: Pat Loeb)

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Regional Affairs Council -- Nov. 2012

KYW Regional Affairs Council

“Public Money,
Private Schools”

.

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania businesses have rushed to take advantage of the additional money made available this year for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit.  The credit reimburses them for donations made to “scholarship organizations” for private and religious schools.

But opponents of the program question where all that money is really going.

“Did you know you can direct your state taxes to help students move from failing schools to high quality schools?” asks Nutrisystem chairman Mike Hagan in an advertising appeal for Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (“BLOCS”), the largest scholarship organization in Pennsylvania receiving money through the EITC.

And it sounds like such a nice idea:

“BLOCS provides scholarships from your business taxes to students who not only want to attend a Catholic school but are most in need.”

But “most in need” is a subjective term.  Income limits for the program are $72,000 and up, depending on the size of the family.  And scholarships generally cover only part of the tuition, leaving many private schools still out of reach for poor families.

feinberg thumb  loeb Part 3:  Who Benefits From It?

(Larry Feinberg, who serves on the Haverford Township school board, is critical of the EITC program. Credit: Pat Loeb)

Haverford Township school board member Larry Feinberg (right) thinks the expansion of the program has another motive.

“It was essentially a taxpayer-funded bailout of our parochial schools,” he told KYW Newsradio recently.

Feinberg notes that Archdiocesan schools were cratering because many students had transferred to free charter schools. He believes the EITC expansion was designed to help the Catholic school system more than students in need.

“You’re probably going to find that the majority of kids that benefit from EITC are kids that were already attending private and parochial schools,” he said.

roebuck thumb  loeb Part 3:  Who Benefits From It?

(Pa. Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila. Credit: Pat Loeb)

And Pennsylvania state representative James Roebuck (D-Phila., right) adds that a tuition subsidy alone does not guarantee admission to a private or Catholic school.

“They can still say ‘no,’ ” he points out.  “That’s not right. You shouldn’t be doing that with public money.”

Listen to Part 3…