School Choice Scholarships Uplift Low-Income, Minority Students in Philadelphia

Jillian Schneider | June 15, 2024

(The Lion) — Philadelphia students who receive school choice scholarships are twice as likely to be proficient in reading and math, a new report reveals.

Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia (CSFP), a nonprofit scholarship-granting organization in Pennsylvania, released a report that found school choice students easily outperformed their public-school counterparts in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP).

CSFP grants partial, needs-based scholarships to thousands of Philadelphia students every year. Its scholarships are funded by the state’s two school choice tax credit programs.

In 4th grade, CSFP students are twice as likely to be proficient in math and reading as their SDP counterparts.

And the advantage persisted through 7th grade.

Even though CSFP scholarships are only offered through 8th grade, the program boasts that 98% of its alumni graduate high school on time, and 70% enroll in postsecondary education within a year of finishing high school.  

The report also highlights the diversity of CSFP students, 46% of which are black/African American, 13% Hispanic/Latino, and just 19% white/Caucasian.  

This makes the school choice program even more diverse than Philadelphia itself, which is only 40% black/African American and 37% white/Caucasian.  

Additionally, CSFP students are more likely to be low-income. The program’s median household income is just $39,500, whereas the median household income for Philadelphia is over $57,500.  

The report “shows that CSFP scholarships change lives and private school choice provides an opportunity to set students on a pathway to long-term success,” said Keisha Jordan, president and CEO of CSFP. “We recognize standardized test scores are just one indicator of academic success, but this report provides an important perspective on how tuition-based schools are serving students from under-resourced households.”  

Families have testified about the value of CSFP scholarships as well.  

“My daughter needed a smaller class size and the local public school had 32 students in a class,” recalled Crystal Best, whose daughter now attends a Catholic school. “It was a blessing to get the scholarship because without it, she would not have had this opportunity.”  

In 2022, Pennsylvania’s two tax credit programs served over 77,000 students.  

Even with such successes, and with school choice growing in popularity nationwide, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro agreed only to expand the tax credit programs, while blocking the establishment of a larger state-run school choice scholarship in 2023. 

Another attempt to create the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship Program is currently being considered by the state Legislature.

This article was made available to EdNews Virginia via The Lion, a publication of the Herzog Foundation.