The following is a guest post from Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania. It was originally posted on their blog here.
Budgets are about priorities and yesterday 147 members of the PA House made it clear that funding scholarships for students to attend unaccountable private/religious schools is one of their top budget priorities this year. They made school privatizer Betsy DeVos proud.
The PA House voted overwhelmingly in favor of HB 250, which would increase funding for private school scholarships to $180 MILLION/year by providing $55 million in NEW tax breaks for businesses that contribute to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. HB 250 also provides an additional $20 million for educational improvement and pre-K organizations (a total increase of $75 million for the EITC and OSTC programs).
Read our Myth-busting PA’s EITC and OSTC programs fact sheet to learn more about how these programs funnel tax dollars into private/religious schools with NO fiscal or academic performance accountability.
Before HB 250 becomes law, the PA Senate will need to approve it and then it will need Governor Wolf’s signature or, if he vetoes it, a veto override in both houses. In addition, in order to pay for $75 million in new EITC/OSTC tax credits, state lawmakers will need to either cut $75 million from other programs/services in the budget or raise revenue.
We have time to educate our senators and our communities about these programs through legislative visits and letters to editor in local newspapers to help suppress the appetite for HB 250 in the Senate.
Let’s put HB 250 in perspective in terms of funding for PA’s K-12 students.
Governor Wolf’s budget proposes a $100 million increase in Basic Education funding and a $25 million increase for special education funding for a total of $125 million. His budget also proposes a $50 million CUT in funding for student transportation, leaving a net $75 million increase in the 2017-2018 budget for PA’s K-12 public school students.
The PA House voted for a $55 million increase in funding for private/religious school scholarships.
Lawmakers have a constitutional obligation to fund a “thorough and efficient” system of public education in Pennsylvania. PA has the most inequitable school funding system in the nation and school districts throughout the Commonwealth continue to struggle to offer students even the most basic educational opportunities because state funding is inadequate.
A majority of PA state representatives voted to provide $55 million in new funding for unaccountable private/religious schools that educate about 250,000 students. These private/religious schools can discriminate against students for any reason and are NOT obliged to enroll any new students or any students living in poverty if they receive new EITC/OSTC scholarship money. The current budget proposal would provide just $75 million additional dollars for more than 1.7 million students who attend Pennsylvania’s public schools.
Let that sink in. This is what the privatization of public education looks like.
Please fill out this form if you are interested in participating in a conference call to learn more about how you can help push back against our state government funneling more tax dollars into private/religious schools through the EITC/OSTC programs, and read our fact sheet Myth busting PA’s EITC and OSTC programs.