The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 25, 2013

Few businesses pony up for scholarships

Intended to help kids in schools with low scores

SHENANGO VALLEY — A scholarship program aimed at getting deserving students out of low-performing public schools was approved last year by Gov. Tom Corbett, but the business donations that are supposed to fund it aren’t coming in.

So far, the tax credits offered by the state to entice businesses to donate scholarship money have attracted zero interest from area businesses, according to representatives of the state and the local charity that arranges the scholarships.

“The key to the success of this program is to have private businesses in the community donate money that will give them a tax break. They can contribute to the community – which is huge,” Sandy Baker, scholarship coordinator for the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, the umbrella organization for the Shenango Valley Community Foundation, Sharon, said.

The state set aside $50 million in Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits for business that donate money to the fund.

Businesses approved by the state would be able to dip into the over $35 million left in the OSTC pot, according to Mark Ryan, of  the state Department of Community and Economic Development. He serves as liaison between the state and Shenango Valley Community Foundation on the scholarship program.

The deadline for businesses to donate money to receive a tax credit is July 1.

“It is a matter of the businesses not being aware of the OSTC program. I don’t think a lot of them realize how similar it is to the EITC (Education Improvement Tax Credit) program, how easy it is to apply and get a tax credit,” Ryan said.

There are three different EITC scholarships, according to Baker. They are for Pre-K programs, parochial schools, and educational improvement for a variety of programs benefiting grades K-12. To date, over 3,600 companies have pledged in excess of $350 million toward this scholarship fund.

Ryan said the EITC scholarship program is very competitive and not all businesses were approved because all of the money set aside by the state for tax credits have been issued.

“The difference between the (two scholarship programs) is that the student has to come from an under-performing school” for OSCT scholarships, Ryan said.

Students who attend low-performing schools, defined by the state as falling into the bottom 15 percent of scores on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, and meet family income guidelines are able to apply for this scholarship.

For the 2013-2014 school year, students who attend any school in Farrell Area School District or C.M. Musser and West Hill elementary schools in the Sharon City School District would be eligible.

No local public school districts and only a handful across the state signed up to take in students from the under-performing schools. Parochial and private schools in the area are the only schools that met the Feb. 15 deadline and are eligible to receive these students.

There is no deadline for students in low-performing schools to apply to see if they also meet the income guidelines.

But those points are all moot, since there’s no scholarship money available.

“In order to get businesses to donate to opportunity scholarship, someone in an underserving school district will convince a person from a business to donate,” Baker said. “We need a champion to really get this rolling.”

“This (the opportunity scholarship) is going to take some time for people understand,” Larry Haynes, executive director of the Shenango Valley Foundation, said. “It is controversial – some schools are concerned that they are going to lose students, parents want the best opportunities for their children. This is going to be a learning process.”

Visit for information on the OSTC and EITC scholarship programs. The site provides applications for businesses to donate, for parents to qualify their child for the opportunity scholarship, and for schools to become eligible to receive opportunity scholarship students.

Text Only
Local News
  • Dancing kids K.I.D.S. day

    Hoping to reach children at just the right age, when they are old enough to understand but not past the point where it may be too late, Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission counselors held an “alternative activities” day at the courthouse Thursday, complete with music and dancing, hot dogs and treats, games and T-shirts.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Better security Grant available to boost security in district courts

    County officials are looking to quickly upgrade security systems in the five district judge offices, not due to an increase in risk, but because current systems are antiquated and there is a short window to apply for some financial help with the costs.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Officials split over selling older monitors

    What to do with a pile of older LCD computer monitors, keyboards and mice remains up in the air until the third, and often absent, county commissioner makes a decision.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police anxious to talk with victim

    Sharon police want to talk to a West Hill man about several other men who came to his house shortly before he was shot and critically wounded Tuesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • AED presentation Heart-friendly pool

    The Lackawannock-Shenango-West Middlesex Pool has some pretty obvious changes from when it was opened almost 46 years ago.

    July 24, 2014 4 Photos

  • Sharon man 'stable' after being shot in his West Hill home

    A Sharon man was in stable condition this morning after being shot by one of several men he had let into his West Hill home, police said.

    July 23, 2014

  • GJR killer not eligible for parole, court rules

    State Superior Court on Tuesday reversed a local judge’s decision that the sentence for one of two men who killed a night supervisor at George Junior Republic, Pine Township, was unconstitutional.

    July 23, 2014

  • Duplicated files, former worker confesses

    A Mercer woman accused of stealing customer lists, billing information and other data from her former employer headed off trial Monday by pleading guilty to a charge of unlawful duplication.

    July 23, 2014

  • Starved house Vandals vent their emotions

    Vandals kept police busy Sunday and Monday nights at a home in Greenville where the Mercer County District Attorney’s office said a boy was starved and beaten by his mom.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Couple, another man charged in thefts

    Pennsylvania State Police have filed charges of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief against an East Palestine, Ohio, couple and another man in connection with two robberies in rural Mercer County.

    July 22, 2014

  • Taking stock Where’s the beef? Bull’s still missing

    Is it possible that an alien abduction took place in the Mercer area last week? A solid red, 2-year-old Watusi bull with 3-foot-long horns has been missing since July 14 with no trace of its existence left on earth.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Buhl Day honorees

    The Buhl Day committee has chosen for this year’s celebration five honored guests whose volunteer work they feel best showcases the legacy of philanthropic work left behind by Frank and Julia Buhl a century ago.

    July 22, 2014

  • GC pair not hurt in accident injuring 2

    Two drivers were taken to a hospital after an accident at the intersection of state routes 965 and 173 in Worth Township, police said.

    July 21, 2014

  • WaterFire crowds WaterFire doused

    Sharon’s WaterFire wasn’t lacking either of its elements on Saturday. There was steady, day-long rain but the day concluded with the Shenango River ablaze.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Starved’ boy released from hospital

    A 7-year-old boy allegedly starved and beaten by his mother is out of the hospital and ordered out of his Greenville home by Mercer County Common Pleas President Judge Thomas R. Dobson.

    July 20, 2014