EITC Still Providing for Day Schools in Hard Times

Attorneys and accountants attend an EITC workshop presented by the Foundation for Jewish Day Schools in 2019. | Photo by Mark Berman

It was deeply important to Rivki Nyer to send her kids to Jewish day school. The mother of six wanted to provide her children with a Jewish education, one in alignment with the values she taught at home.

But after a few years at day school in Edison, New Jersey, she was near the end of her rope. Tuition continued to rise, and she could expect only so much assistance from the school. It was hard to see how all of her kids would be able to receive such an opportunity.

Today, Nyer’s worries have subsided, as she has been aided by tuition breaks via a Pennsylvania tax program called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program. Nyer, who now lives in Narberth, is now able to sustainably send her children to Kohelet Yeshiva.

“It definitely takes a lot of stress away,” Nyer said.

Nyer is one of many Pennsylvania parents benefiting from the EITC program. In 2019-2020, in the Philadelphia area alone, families received close to $9 million in needs-based scholarships to Jewish day schools. In addition, more than $720,000 in scholarships were awarded to more than 200 preschool students.

According to the Foundation for Jewish Day Schools, a 501(c)(3) that represents Philadelphia’s Jewish day schools, it’s more important than ever for individuals and corporations to learn how they can support families like Nyer’s through EITC. With more economic effects of the pandemic still to come, families that needed assistance will need more, and families that never needed assistance before may need to ask for it.

“These programs are lifelines to our community’s day schools,” according to Elliot Holtz, chairman of FJDS.

The EITC program, not to be confused with Earned Income Tax Credit, was signed into law by then-Gov. Tom Ridge in 2001. The program initially allowed companies organized as C-corporations to direct a portion of their annual tax payments to a third party, called either an educational improvement organization, a scholarship organization or a pre-kindergarten scholarship organization. FJDS is one such scholarship organization, or SO.

The SO, which could represent one school or a coalition of schools, can then distribute tuition funds to qualifying families, based on residency and income requirements. In recent years, Holtz said, lobbying has made it so that companies organized as S-corporations, LLCs and groups of private individuals are allowed to make contributions, too.

Besides being able to make large contributions directly to private schools of their choosing, those businesses receive tax credits equal to 75% of that same contribution, up to $750,000. That number goes to 90% if the business makes a donation of the same size in consecutive years.

Components include support for students from low-achieving school catchments, as well as enhanced curricular content for public school students. The Youth Symposium on the Holocaust, an educational program for School District of Philadelphia students sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, benefits from that.

“It’s such an easy way for businesses and individuals to help the schools,” said Ellen Horowitz Matz, director of Education Tax Credit Programs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

At Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, high school tuition is $34,500 a year, plus fees. Tuition averages around $28,000 for middle school. Head of School Sharon Levin said 22% of her students “could not be accommodated” without FJDS support.

“I cannot speak strongly enough that this has been a miracle for those of us in the Jewish day school world,” she said.

When the EITC program was signed into law in 2001, day schools worked with the Jewish Federation to create a separate entity (the FJDS) that would serve as the SO through which funds could be disbursed.

Businesses that want to be a part of the program have two options. They can either apply directly to the commonwealth, where preference is given to companies that have participated in the past. They can also contribute to a Special Purpose Entity, a type of organization that exists solely to obtain EITC for SOs.

For individuals who wish to take part, SPEs are the only route available.

The SPE attached to FJDS is the Pennsylvania Education Part-nership, which Holtz also runs.

Amir Goldman, who serves on the board of the Jewish Federation as well as that of FJDS, said the pandemic has seriously affected Jewish day schools and the EITC program.

Businesses generate less revenue, creating a smaller tax bill from which to direct funds toward SOs; individuals who might have donated to Jewish day schools outside of EITC may give less than they typically would; more families will likely need tuition assistance. And funding will shrink as more will need it.

jbernstein@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


  1. Let’s all keep in mind that the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program also helps fund lots of Christian educational institutions using your tax dollars and mine. These schools teach :

    The Jews are culpable for crucifying Jesus – as such they are guilty of deicide.

    The tribulations of the Jewish people throughout history constitute God’s punishment of them for killing Jesus.

    Jesus originally came to preach only to the Jews, but when they rejected him, he abandoned them for gentiles instead.

    The Children of Israel were God’s original chosen people by virtue of an ancient covenant, but by rejecting Jesus they forfeited their chosenness – and now, by virtue of a New Covenant (or “testament”), Christians have replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people, the Church having become the “People of God.”

    The Jewish Bible (“Old” Testament) repeatedly portrays the opaqueness and stubbornness of the Jewish people and their disloyalty to God.

    The Jewish Bible contains many predictions of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah (or “Christ”), yet the Jews are blind to the meaning of their own Bible.

    By the time of Jesus’ ministry, Judaism had ceased to be a living faith.

    Judaism’s essence is a restrictive and burdensome legalism.

    Christianity emphasizes love, while Judaism stands for justice and a God of wrath.

    Judaism’s oppressiveness reflects the disposition of Jesus’ opponents called “Pharisees” (predecessors of the “rabbis”), who in their teachings and behavior were hypocrites (see Woes of the Pharisees).

    We must all ask ourselves, is the benefit to our Day Schools worth the funding of anti-Semitism?


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