By Elliot Holtz
As we all begin to slowly emerge from the fog of the COVID-19 pandemic, each of us has had to start to grapple with what the coming months and years have in store. So few in our community educate their children in our Jewish schools but we know many want to see Jewish continuity. For those who want to support the day school movement and certainly for those of us with children in the Jewish day school system, the question of school survival is of increasing concern. General expenses, which had already been on the rise, have now been compounded by the costs of complying with safely having students in the building. At the same time, the ability for parents to pay tuition, and for donors to continue to give, is sure to decrease dramatically.
Fortunately, and almost miraculously, given the current fiscal environment in Harrisburg, the EITC and OSTC program has been allowed to continue. Representatives of the Foundation for Jewish Day Schools (FJDS) fought hard, along with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and TeachPA (OU), to continue the tax credits allocated to the program, and succeeded.
In addition, the DCED has instituted two one-time COVID-19 relief allowances for donors in the program (both businesses and individuals), which translates to the fact that our state government understands the larger economic picture and is working to keep donors in the program and students in schools.
So, to paraphrase what God said, in a famous Jewish parable, to the man who died of drowning, waiting for a miracle, after refusing the car, the boat and the plane that had all stopped to help him: “You asked for a miracle? What did you think the boat, the plane and the car were?”
What are we waiting for? The EITC and OSTC programs are that lifeline for us. Gov. Tom Wolf and state legislators have given us the opportunity to have our tax dollars directly benefit our day schools. With EITC and OSTC, families with children from preschool through high school with financial needs are able to provide their children with a Jewish education. The program enables schools to increase enrollment and to continue to provide a quality Jewish education to all families who want one.
Getting in on the miracle is surprisingly easy. Don’t feel intimidated by some of the technical accounting and tax details of the program — that’s what FJDS and your accountant are for. Don’t assume that you are not eligible to participate in the EITC/OSTC program — presume that you can. Do know that, if you commit to the program, almost everyone can receive a 90% state tax credit. There are two time frames which may be of interest to donors: First, the FJDS is hosting an informational webinar on June 18. And, second, one of the participation deadlines is coming up on July 1, in addition to more throughout the year.
So, if you find yourself in the fortunate position to have weathered the COVID-19 storm with little financial impact or if you are anticipating a tax event for your business, please consider taking advantage of the phenomenal opportunity that the governor, the state legislators and DCED have given us with the EITC and OSTC programs. This year, more than ever, your contributions to this program are essential.
You may not send your children to Jewish day school. However, the very fact that you are reading this piece in the Jewish Exponent means that you care about the Jewish community — and for parents with financial restraints who wish to provide their children with a Jewish education, as they are part of our community. By using your dollars in this way, you will have an immediate impact on hundreds of Jewish children in our area, and undoubtedly, the Jewish education that you enabled them to receive, will have an impact for many generations to come.
Elliot Holtz is the chairman of the Foundation for Jewish Day Schools and the co-chairman of the TeachPA/Pennsylvania OU Advocacy Center.