Pennsylvania - Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program
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Pennsylvania – Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program

Pennsylvania – Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program

Pennsylvania’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, enacted and launched in 2012, offers corporations tax credits for their donations to Opportunity Scholarship Organizations (OSOs) that provide private school scholarships. Students who meet the zoning and income requirements can receive those tax-credit scholarships. Learn more about the program, including funding, eligibility and rules, on this page.

Program Fast Facts

  • 14,419 scholarships awarded (2017–18)

  • 9 percent of students eligible statewide

  • 178 scholarship organizations awarding scholarships (2016–17)

  • Average scholarship value: $2,490 (2017–18)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 17 percent

Program Details

Pennsylvania’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program Participation

Scholarships Awarded
School Year Ending

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program’s details.

Pennsylvania offers tax credits for corporate contributions to Scholarship Organizations (SOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships.

Student Funding

Scholarship Organizations determine scholarship amounts, which are capped at the amount of a school’s tuition and fees or $8,500. Students attending “economically disadvantaged schools” – which are those enrolling 75 percent or more scholarship students – may receive scholarships worth up to $9,000. Students with special needs may receive up to $15,000, and special needs students attending economically disadvantages schools may receive up to $16,000. Public school boards may set up tuition grant programs that allow students to attend a public or private school. For private schools under such programs, the tuition grant is limited to the state’s per-pupil subsidy amount.

Student Eligibility

Students must live in a “low-achieving” school zone, with low-achieving defined as the state’s bottom 15 percent of public schools based on standardized test scores. Also, families are eligible only if their household incomes are less than $90,000 plus $15,905 for each child in the family in 2019–20, adjusted annually for inflation. Students with special needs are eligible for scholarships if they come from families who earn 150 percent of the baseline income level (for example, a family with one child may earn up to $158,858 in 2019–20) or less, and those with the most severe special needs are eligible if they come from families who earn 299 percent of the baseline income level ($316,656 for a one-child family in 2019–20) or less.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

The newer of Pennsylvania’s two tax-credit scholarship programs has a relatively high cap on scholarship values and generally avoids unnecessary regulations on private schools. However, because of the myriad requirements needed to qualify for a scholarship—coupled with the overall funding cap—the chief weakness of Pennsylvania’s newer tax-credit scholarship program is its student eligibility. Although the program deserves credit for having significantly higher income thresholds for students with special needs based on their particular types of special needs, limiting eligibility to students who are assigned to “low-performing” schools excludes a large number of students whose assigned schools are not the right fit. For this program to grow successfully, Pennsylvania should consider cutting some of the complexity and red tape placed on student eligibility.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: $90,000 + $15,905 per child
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Scholarship Cap: $8,500 / $9,000 (economically disadvantaged school) / $15/16,000 (special needs)
  • Testing Mandates: None
  • Credit Value: 75 percent / 90 percent
  • Total Credit Cap: Yes
  • Budget Cap: $55 million
  • *Limited to students in low-performing schools

 

SO Requirements:

  • Use at least 80 percent of contributions for scholarships
  • Make scholarships available to more than one school
  • Submit annual report detailing donations received and scholarships awarded to the state, including number of scholarships awarded and total and average amounts of scholarships awarded to students from households with a family income that does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline ($47,638 for a family of four in 2019–20)
  • Submit a copy of a financial audit conducted by a certified accounting firm

Governing Statutes

72 P.S. §§ 8701-G.1 through 8712-G.1

Legal History

No legal challenges have been filed against the program.

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