by Anthony Hennen
A new tax credit could send millions to career and technical education in Pennsylvania to cover program costs – if the General Assembly approves it.
The proposal, House Bill 52, would establish the Career and Technical Education Investment Incentive Program, a $15 million tax credit available to businesses that donate to CTE scholarships or purchase equipment for these programs.
The vast majority of tax credits, 90%, would be reserved for covering program costs and services, while 10% would be used for enrollment expansion.
“There are almost 200,000 unfilled skilled jobs in PA,” said Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, in a legislative memo. “This bill will partner business investment with our career and technical education students and secondary and postsecondary institutions to fill those position(s) and grow our commonwealth’s economy.”
In order to grow the PA economy, it is imperative that we connect our education system with the needs of job creators, he said, specifically as it pertains to trade skills.
Owlett told The Center Square on Tuesday the state offers many “solid” CTE programs, but they appear disconnected from the labor market.
“We just need to bring the employers with the jobs and the schools with the programs – and the students! – together to better coordinate and prepare the students for the family-sustaining careers available,” he said. “As a father, I want my kids to have the opportunity to stay here. But it goes beyond that.”
He pointed to Pennsylvania’s growing share of senior citizens, as well as population stagnation that’s cost the yet another congressional seat.
“If we are to continue supporting our senior citizens, we need to change our demographics,” he said. “We need to keep more of our young people here, we need to keep more of our employers here and we need to bring in some new employers and draw new people to Pennsylvania.”
The bill’s structure is similar to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, which offers tax credits in exchange for donations help low and middle income students attend private schools. Some funds also support “innovative” public school programs.
Tax credits for businesses that donate are capped at 75% of the contributed amount up to $750,000, but that credit can increase to 90% if a business commits to providing the same amount for two years.
An annual report summarizing the impact of the tax credit program would then be required every December.
A previous version of the bill in the House’s last session made it to second consideration before stalling out.
Career and technical education has garnered bipartisan support in different forms. Gov. Josh Shapiro spoke of boosting CTE funding in his budget address, as The Center Square previously reported.
“Fewer students have the opportunity to pursue a job in the trades – and fewer know that path even exists,” Shapiro said. “My Administration has a comprehensive plan to invest in apprenticeship programs, expand vo-tech, and bring career and technical education back into our classrooms. We can connect the dots between our schools, our trade unions, our companies, and the public sector.”
In his budget, Shapiro proposed a $14 million boost for CTE spending, a 13% increase from the previous year.
Advocates argue that more is needed, however. A report last week encouraged Shapiro’s administration to expand CTE funding by $230 million to get Pennsylvania’s CTE numbers comparable to neighboring states.
– – –
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.