Schwartz Pledges Support for Private School Tax Credit

By Lisa Hostein

Originally published in the Jewish Exponent, December 18, 2013

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz pledged to uphold a state educational tax credit that supports Jewish day school scholarships if she is elected governor.

The pledge came at a Wednesday morning meet-and-greet at a private home with members of the Orthodox community of the Main Line. The event was organized by the advocacy center of the Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization of Orthodox congregations. Organizers said this was the first in a planned series of meetings with Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates.

Schwartz, the only Jewish and only female member of the Pennsylvania delegation in Congress, whose district covers parts of Northeast Philadelphia and eastern Montgomery County, is considered a strong candidate to unseat Gov. Tom Corbett in the 2014 election. But first she will be competing in a crowded Democratic primary.

In a wide-ranging campaign pitch, she highlighted her Jewish connections and spoke about her commitment to grow the state’s economy and to reinvest in education. She said she is hoping to get “100 percent support from the Jewish community” in her bid for governor.

When it comes to state issues, a top agenda item for many in the Orthodox community is day school affordability. The O.U.,  which set up a Pennsylvania state advocacy program a few years ago, has lobbied hard for legislation that allows tax credits for businesses that provide educational scholarships to help pay private school tuition. The Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, known as EITC, was enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2001. The state currently allocates $100 million in tax credits to businesses participating in the program, which, according to O.U. officials, serves as a model for other states.

Answering the first question put to her, Schwartz said she would “certainly support” EITC at its current level. “I have no intention to cut it,” she said.

She also said that she is “generally supportive” of a newer educational tax credit program but would need to find out more specifics about it before she could commit to it. That program, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, or OSTC, enacted in Harrisburg in July 2012, provides scholarships to students who live in areas with the lowest performing schools to attend a private or a different public school.

Schwartz, a strong proponent of public school education who served for a decade as the Democratic chair of the Education Committee when she was in the state Senate, said education would be a top priority if she is elected governor. Her website says: “As governor, Schwartz will end Corbett’s assault on our schools and recommit Pennsylvania to public education.”

She suggested that her commitment to restore funding to public schools would not conflict with her support for the tax education credits.