State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Lawmakers likely to expand EITC without added accountability measures

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 17, 2011 11:30 PM

A GOP lawmaker says increasing accountability measures in a state program that sends tax dollars to private schools would make businesses and schools jump through too many hoops.


There’s no consensus yet on what the bill that would expand the Education Improvement Tax Credit program will look like.  But it probably won’t include new financial reporting rules for the schools and programs that get grants paid for by businesses, which, in turn, get tax write-offs. 


Rep. Jim Christiana, a Beaver County Republican, sponsored one proposal to expand EITC.  He said concerns about financial accountability are unwarranted.


“I think the responsibility comes from the donors. You know, do the donors feel like the people that are contributing to these funds, do they feel like the money’s being spent responsibly?”


Researchers at the left-leaning Keystone Research Center say the program requires far too little in its financial reports and the Department of Community and Economic Development, which oversees the program, hasn’t been given the resources to do meaningful monitoring or auditing of EITC participants. 

The Keystone Research Center studied EITC program accountability measures in April. 


“Accountability was pretty much paper-thin, is one way to put it,” said Stephen Herzenberg, the center’s executive director.  “There’s a certain amount of self-reporting of how money is used, or the number of scholarships given out, but it’s very, very basic information on the financial side.”


Christiana suggested maybe it’s the other financial reporting forms – used by other grant programs – that are too burdensome.


“I think if these organizations are spending the money wisely, that’ll be reflected in the donors contributing to their funds.  I don’t think government needs to make them jump through hoops to keep their donors happy.”


Governor Corbett’s education reform guidelines don’t include additional hoops – just additional money.  He called for an increase in state funds for the program, which gets $75 million.


Herzenberg said the budget expansion should come with more financial and educational monitoring of both the grants and their recipients. 


“Not having accountability as you expand the state funds going to private schools is just a set-up for hearing stories down the road of financial abuse and really of abuse of kids education opportunities,” he said.


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