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Monday, June 11, 2012

Obligation

Last week, Rep. Christiana (R-Beaver) proposed legislation that would create a new Education Improvement Scholarship Credit (EISC). EISC would authorize a total of $450 million in tax credits over the next three years.

This program would re-direct dollars away from revenue collections, therefore reducing the amount of revenue the Commonwealth has to use for programs and services. In addition, the proposal calls for an increase in the current EITC program from $75 million to $100 million next fiscal year and $200 million for subsequent years. So money would be taken out of our coffers, and directed at private schools, even as we cut current funding for our public schools, which serve the vast majority of our children.

These recent cuts of over $900 million to public education have seriously affected the educational opportunities available to Pennsylvania students (as documented in a recent report). School districts are being forced to eliminate programs (such as kindergarten), close school buildings, increase class size and let go of teachers and aides. Education is starting to go backwards in Pennsylvania and students are the ones who are being negatively affected.

The Governor is trying to get the Senate and House to reduce the total amount of money to spend in their proposed budgets, both of which restore a portion of the Governor’s proposed education cuts in his FY 2012-2013 budget. The Governor has said that we have limited resources (despite having left over a year-end balance of $267 million if the House/Senate “budget amount” is enacted). If this is the case, why would we enact legislation that would further reduce our limited resources by reducing the commonwealth’s revenue by $725 million total in the next three years (Christiana’s proposal for EITC and EISC)?

The General Assembly has a constitutional OBLIGATION to EVERY child who attends public schools to provide them with a “thorough and efficient” education! If the state legislature and our Governor are unwilling to make sure that every child will be able to attend kindergarten next school year, how can they justify diverting more taxpayer dollars to private education? It’s time they start fulfilling their obligation.

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