Private schools say students, families will suffer over confusion surrounding EITC program

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – As the budget barbs fly back and forth, private schools say their students and families are caught in the middle – sort of.

“It’s left everybody in a terrible situation of uncertainty, and it doesn’t need to be this way,” said Michael Geer, who works for the Family Choice Scholarship Program.

Geer is referring to confusion over Pennsylvania’s Educational Income Tax Credit program.

EITC allows local businesses to give money to school foundations for scholarships and programs and then receive tax credits from the state. Private schools often use that money to help families with tuition. Public schools also use EITC for after-school and remedial education programs.

This year is different, especially for private schools.

“They’re faced with this terrible situation,” Geer told ABC 27. “Do they have layoffs? Are they going to tell that child who’s already halfway through a school year that they have to find another place to go?”

Businesses applied for their tax credits in June. The Wolf administration has held off on the approval letters, saying the caps on the programs are set in the tax code, which isn’t approved without a final budget.

On Christmas Eve, Governor Wolf ordered conditional approvals to go out to businesses for tax filing. But business owners say the letters are unclear about whether they will actually get their tax credits.

“That uncertainty makes it crazy for businesses to know what to do,” Geer said. “It leaves schools and families still hurting and wondering if they’re going to get any resources for a school year that started months ago.”

Businesses only have until Dec. 31 to decide if they make their donations without certainty they will receive tax credits from the state. Private schools claim they’re in uncharted waters, saying even during the infamous Rendell budget stalemates, the EITC scholarships were never in question.

“Ultimately, the responsibility of the state and taxpayer in terms of funding education is not about which schools get it, but are we educating children?” Geer said. “Are they getting the benefit of the tax dollars being spent?”

A spokesperson for Governor Wolf says the conditional approvals are honest, not intentionally confusing. In the past, certain tax credits have been reduced or eliminated as part of final budget agreements.

Since there is no final agreement for this year’s budget, the Wolf administration says it cannot guarantee businesses will get their credits.

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