Pittsburgh’s Jewish day schools and the families who count on them were given a boost by the 2018-2019 Pennsylvania state budget, as an additional $25 million dollars was designated toward the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. The program, which now totals $160 million dollars, incentivizes businesses to donate to designated school scholarship funds by awarding tax credits for such gifts, thereby enabling eligible families to receive financial aid toward non-public school education.
The increase to EITC is one of several highlights to the new $32.7 million dollar budget signed last month by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
In Pittsburgh, Jewish day school professionals celebrated the announcement of a budgetary increase to the program.
“It shows the commitment from the state to investing in private school education, which is a very positive sign for us,” said Rabbi Chezky Rosenfeld, Yeshiva Schools’ director of development. “Programs like EITC are extremely valuable for the sustainability of day schools in Pittsburgh.”
Bari Weinberger, chief financial officer of Community Day School, agreed.
EITC is “a significant part of our budget,” she said. “A good percentage of our students are eligible,” as 60 percent of students receiving tuition assistance at CDS qualify for funding under the tax credit program.
According to the program, eligible families are those whose maximum annual household income is $85,000 (an increase of $10,000 from the previous budget’s amount) plus approximately $15,000 for each child in the family.
Community Day School’s head of school.
The program is “definitely very significant,” echoed Rosenfeld. “We get substantial money from EITC and rely on that to cover basic necessities in our school.”
Between 2015 and 2016, 30,469 scholarships (in an average amount of $1,673) were awarded due to EITC, noted EdChoice, an organization that supports the school choice movement.
Each year, representatives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh work with members of the three Jewish day schools to promote the EITC program, said Adam Hertzman, Federation’s director of marketing. In working together, the schools have collectively received more than $5 million dollars to apply toward families seeking financial assistance.
“There is a real partnership between the three day schools and the Federation that makes this successful,” said Munro.
Added Dan Kraut, CEO of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, “It’s a great program that has allowed all three day schools to increase in their enrollment and make a Jewish education available for all of Pittsburgh’s kids.” PJC
This article has been corrected to clarify that 60 percent of students receiving tuition assistance at CDS qualify for funding under the tax credit program, rather than 60 percent of students overall at CDS. The Chronicle regrets the error.