From Education Voters of PA:
On Monday, June 7th, the Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee voted to advance legislation that would take hundreds of millions of dollars away from students in our local public schools and steer this money into private/religious schools, tax breaks for businesses, and an expansion of unaccountable charter schools.
Every year we see Harrisburg politicians attack our local public schools–but never before on this scale.
And this legislation is on a fast track. It was introduced on Friday, and we expect a vote in the full PA Senate as early as Wednesday.
It is deeply disappointing that instead of working to fund our local public schools, which educate 90% of Pennsylvania’s students, some lawmakers are hoping to use the crisis created by the pandemic to jam through a school privatization agenda that will gut resources when students in our communities need them the most.
- Senate Bill 1 would increase tax breaks for businesses and corporations that give money to private/religious schools by $300 million this year AND provide an automatic 25% annual increase in funding. In just five years, these tax breaks would cost more than $1 billion.
- Senate Bill 1 would give a state-level commission of political appointees the power to open charter schools in our communities without the approval of local taxpayers, who pay 100% of charter school tuition bills. In 2019-2020, taxpayers spent nearly $2.2 billion on charter school tuition bills. Unfettered charter expansion would explode this amount in the future, forcing property tax increases and draining even more local revenue from public schools.
- Senate Bill 1 does NOT contain charter school funding reforms, so taxpayers would continue to pay charter schools more than it costs them to educate students, draining billions from our local schools and maintaining vast opportunities for the waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money by charter operators.
- Senate Bill 733 would establish a brand-new school Educational Opportunity Account Scholarship (EOAS) voucher program in Pennsylvania that would be available to a wide assortment of students, including students with disabilities, gifted students and others.
- If just 14% of eligible students participated in the voucher program in Senate Bill 733, nearly $600 million in taxpayer dollars would be transferred out of our local public schools and into private entities.
- Senate Bill 733 would also allow families to spend funding that was removed from local public schools on their children’s 529 college savings plans, private financial management firm fees, fees for college entrance exams, postsecondary course prep, and more. Is this how school taxes should be spent?
Pennsylvania’s public schools were grossly underfunded by the state before COVID. And now our local schools need to invest in substantial new resources and programs both to meet students’ mental health needs after the isolation and loss forced by COVID and to ensure that students who fell behind last year have an opportunity to get caught up.
Please join thousands of Pennsylvanians from every corner of the commonwealth in sending state lawmakers a strong and loud message that we expect them to support and fund our local public schools and reject school privatization legislation that would siphon hundreds of millions of additional school tax dollars into unaccountable private entities every year.
Thank you for your continued support of public education. We will share updates on these bills and who voted for and against them as they moves through the General Assembly.
Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA