The failure of public education in this country has often been deemed a national crisis. But parents who seek to provide their children with other options tend to run into a roadblock: The cost of private alternatives can be prohibitive.
Finding ways for families without the resources to pay for tuition for their kids to go to better schools is a challenge. Unknown to many of us, the state has provided a way for local businesses to do just that.
Pennsylvania's Education Improvement Tax Credit Program has existed since 2001 and, this year, the Commonwealth has increased the total amount that can be given to this initiative.
What the EITC does is to allow businesses to donate money to support educational institutions, including Jewish day schools and early-childhood programs for which they receive tax credits. To facilitate this vital aid, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has set up a foundation to assist businesses to take advantage of the opportunity and to funnel money for scholarships to Jewish schools for lower-income families.
By itself, the program does not provide a comprehensive solution to the specific dilemma of the high cost of quality Jewish education, since middle-class families who have, to a large extent, been priced out of the day-school market cannot take advantage of it. But the EITC does give businesses the chance to help certain families -- both Jewish and non-Jewish -- make choices that enable their children to seek the best possible education.
In the past six years, the Foundation for Jewish Day Schools, created by Federation to assist those donating to EITC, has awarded more than $26 million in needs-based scholarships to Jewish schools. With an expanded cap for the program this year, even more can be done. Those enterprises that take part in the plan are not only lowering their taxes, but making a vital contribution to the community. We urge businesses to look into the program and to donate generously to it.