Catholic education in Carbon County has received a $75,000 boost.

Two corporations, Aetna and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, have made the funds possible through their contributions via the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.

The funding, through the Bravo Foundation, has been earmarked for Carbon's four parochial schools: Our Lady of the Angels Academy, Lansford; St. Joseph's Academy, Jim Thorpe; SS. Peter and Paul, Lehighton; and St. John Neumann, Palmerton.

A presentation for the EITC funding was held Thursday morning at St. Katherine Drexel Catholic Church, Lansford.

Making the presentation was House Speaker and State Representative Keith R. McCall (D-122); Greg Martino, Head of Regulatory Affairs for Aetna; Angela Lagowy, Enterprise Rent-A-Car; and Anne Hart, representing the Bravo Foundation. The children of Our Lady of the Angels also attended the ceremony.

McCall himself was a student of the former St. Joseph's School in Summit Hill, one of the predecessors of Our Lady of the Angels. McCall's children currently attend OLOAA, with his daughter Courtney in sixth grade and son Keith in third grade.

Enacted in 2001, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program is a way for businesses to donate to parochial and private schools and pay fewer corporate income tax dollars as a result. The EITC program allows for a 75 percent tax credit, up to $300,000 for a tax year, and up to 90 percent if a business agrees to provide the same amount for two consecutive years.

"Businesses buy the tax credits through the commonwealth," said McCall. "We need corporate sponsors to step up to the plate and buy the credits."

The Bravo Foundation handles the paperwork for the EITC program. "The foundation is the conduit that gets the funds," explained McCall.

Aetna and Enterprise Rent-A-Car are two businesses that have made use of the program, and Catholic students in Carbon County will benefit.

Sister Regina Elinich, I.H.M., principal of Our Lady of the Angels, said the funds would be used for scholarships for the schools. "It will be for financial aid for students, based on need," she noted.

OLOAA currently has 110 students in Kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as another 30 in three and four year-old preschool classes.

"It definitely is needed," said Sister Regina. "The support of the community, and the businesses that support us, is wonderful. Every donation, no matter how large or how small, is appreciated."

McCall mentioned that the Pa. EITC program was cut last year, a victim of last year's state budget battles. "There is a drive to restore those dollars this year," he said.

That might not be easy. McCall noted that while Personal Income Tax collections appeared good as of this month, sales tax was not as good. "The deficit has grown," he stated.

Sister Regina hopes the program can continue. "Not every state has this," she noted.