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New school tax credit plan emerges in Pennsylvania

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(The Center Square) – A new plan quietly introduced in the state Senate would create a refundable tax credit for educational expenses, including private school tuition.

The proposal would establish the Child Learning Investment Tax Credit, worth up to $8,000 per student, that families could use to reduce their tax liability. It’s scheduled for a vote in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The plan strays from a $100 million school voucher proposal that Gov. Josh Shapiro and Senate Republican leadership agreed to during last year’s budget negotiations. House Democrats, who control the chamber, rejected the idea as an unconstitutional diversion of taxpayer funds away from public schools.

At the time, the governor said it wasn’t his job to change their minds. In a February television interview, he reaffirmed his support for school choice – whether it was in the form of a tax credit or a “direct appropriation.”

The sides have only grown more entrenched since a Commonwealth Court ruling deemed Pennsylvania’s school funding formula inequitable. The House passed an updated calculation last month despite Republicans’ criticism that it only made the issue worse.

Until this week, Senate Republicans – who control the chamber – have focused largely on a wide-ranging college tuition grant program meant to attract students in high-demand careers and keep them in Pennsylvania long-term. School choice expansion, however, has always remained a top legislative priority, though one that hadn’t moved far since a May 4 vote in the Senate Education Committee.

The timing of the tax credit vote – three days past the state budget deadline – signals that it’s top-of-mind now for the upper chamber, even if Shapiro isn’t on board this time.

Manuel Bonder, the governor’s spokesman, told The Center Square on Tuesday that the administration doesn’t support the bill. He did not elaborate any further when asked why.

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