Five months into the new budget year, disagreement over school funding is not only standing in the way of a completed budget, but it is also threatening a much-needed lifeline for students in Pennsylvania’s poorest, underperforming schools.
Following party-line passage of the budget in the House in early June, the bill went to the Senate where it was amended to include $100 million in lifeline scholarships that would enable students in failing schools to go to a school of their choice – a provision Senate leaders and the governor had agreed on. But, when the bill returned to the House on concurrence, it was flatly rejected by House Democrats who largely view the scholarship program as the camel’s nose under the tent for school choice, which is strongly opposed by teachers’ unions. The bill passed after the governor pledged a line-item veto to remove the scholarship language, contrary to his campaign pledge in support of school choice.
With the scholarship language removed, the bill went back to the Senate on concurrence where leaders on both sides of the aisle inserted language to move an additional $150 million into the existing and highly successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. These programs fund tax credits to businesses that offer scholarships to low-income families with children in Pennsylvania’s failing schools. The scholarships provide these students with a much-needed opportunity for academic success in a school of their choice – opportunities they are not finding in failing public schools.
When the bill came back to the House, Democrat leaders once again stripped out the Senate-added funding for the educational tax credit programs.
I can think of little that is more important than our children’s education and I empathize with those parents whose circumstances are such that they must send their children to failing schools. Sound alternatives exist, as we have repeatedly demonstrated, yet Democrats in the House, and the teachers’ unions that support them, have opted instead to protect the status quo. In doing so, they are depriving children who happen to live in failing school districts of what could be their best opportunity for success.
Representative Dan Moul
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Donna Pinkham