242,000 in Pa. eligible for scholarships |

242,000 in Pa. eligible for scholarships

Tony LaRussa

Students from families with low-to-moderate incomes in 79 of Western Pennsylvania’s worst-performing public schools are eligible to apply for a state scholarship to attend another public or private school, education officials said Wednesday.

Across Pennsylvania, more than 242,000 students could be eligible for the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law this month. Eligibility is based on their schools’ math and reading scores on the 2010-11 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test.

“Students aren’t going to learn in low-achieving schools,” said Tim Eller, spokesman for the Department of Education. “These scholarships are a way to help parents make the decision to remove their children from poor-performing schools.”

To qualify for a scholarship for the 2012-13 school year, a student’s annual household income must be below $60,000, plus $12,000 for each dependent.

Scholarships of up to $8,500 per student will be awarded, or $15,000 for a special education student. The state is in the process of determining which schools want to accept scholarship students.

Funding comes from the Educational Improvement Tax Credit — created under former Gov. Tom Ridge — that businesses receive for donating to the scholarship program.

Carl Barbarino, president of the Penn Hills School Board, believes creating ways for parents to withdraw their children from poor-performing schools is not necessarily the best way to fix a school.

“When a student leaves to go to another school, the district loses the state subsidy it receives for them, which makes it even more difficult to educate the children who stay,” he said. “In many cases, the problems in poor-performing schools is the lack of parental involvement, which this program doesn’t deal with.”

Under the program, districts lose their state subsidy after students are gone for two years, Eller said.

Eller said how districts deal with the exodus of students who qualify for scholarships is not the intent of the program.

“My response to naysayers who think this will hurt public schools is that we are not in the business of schools, we are in the business of students,” he said.

In all, students from 414 schools in 74 districts could qualify for the scholarship.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarus [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.