May 8, 2021
PASA Opposes Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 733: Your Advocacy Needed!
Senate Bills 1 and 733 may be voted upon by the full Senate tomorrow, Wednesday, June 9. PASA opposes both of these bills as they are detrimental to public education. Please contact your state Senator today to express your opposition to both bills.
Senate Bill 1: Charter Schools, EITC Program
SB 1 relates to the charter school law with some language regarding ethics and audits that PASA has requested, but most of the bill’s language is favorable to charter schools – and there is NOTHING regarding the tuition formula or financial relief for school districts. What is also clear is that the bill would provide another option for charter school approval other than local school boards by establishing the Public Charter School Commission, which would consist of legislative appointees and one appointee from the governor (although that appointee would require legislative approval). In other words, with strong pro-charter House and Senate majorities, the commission would provide a smoother process for charter approval without local school board input.
The bill also increases the EITC/OSTC programs (tuition tax-credits) from $185 and $55 million respectively to $300 million with increases of 25% annually thereafter if certain thresholds are met, which is another win for choice advocates – and means less tax revenue in the state’s General Fund for public schools.
Tell your Senator(s):
* We need charter school reform that addresses the tuition calculation formula that curtails the excessive cost of regular education and special education tuition going to charter schools.
* We oppose the creation of a less rigorous and accountable process for applicants to be approved as a charter school as proposed in the bill through the Public Charter School Commission.
* The expansion of Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC) reduces state revenue that could be used to support many more students in Pennsylvania by using these funds for school subsidy increases.
* An annual increase of 25% for these funds will raise the cost of the program to over $1 billion in just five years, creating an unrealistic burden for the state and the loss of revenue that could be used to support the 1.6 million students attending traditional public schools.
* There is no public accountability for the use of tax credit money once it goes to non-public schools.
Senate Bill 733: Vouchers
This voucher bill, referred to as the “Keystone Scholarship Program for Exceptional Students,” would provide “scholarships” (a euphemism for vouchers) to students in kindergarten through 12th grade to allow the parents of eligible children (special needs and gifted) to purchase what they would consider to be the best educational option available to educate their child. A parent of an eligible student participating in the program could utilize funds deposited in their student’s account for qualified expenses including, but not limited to, tuition and fees, textbooks, tutoring, curriculum, corresponding materials and exams, and training programs. The PDE would be responsible for administering the program, including approving applications submitted by parents, notifying parents of eligible students of the responsibilities of PDE and the parent, and providing a list of participating schools.
If the PDE approves an eligible student's application for participation in the program, the Commonwealth would deposit into the “account” of the eligible student participating in the program a base grant amount equal to 90% of all state payments made to the resident school district of the eligible student for the immediately preceding school year divided by the resident school district's average daily membership for the immediately preceding school year. The base grant amount would be increased according to the student's disability. The additional grant amount for the disability would be based on the category of disability by which the resident school district is required to categorize the eligible student. An eligible student would be counted in the ADM of the student's resident school district for the purposes of calculating state aid to the resident school district, but the amount deposited by the Commonwealth into an eligible student 's account would be subtracted from the state aid payable to the eligible student's resident school district. The district still would be responsible for transporting the student under the School Code.
Tell your Senator(s):
* SB 733 is the latest attempt to establish an education voucher program in the commonwealth. Changing the name of tuition vouchers to, “education savings accounts” or “education opportunity scholarship accounts” or tying the voucher program to specific populations of students does not change or hide the real ideological intent of the proposal. EOSAs are just a new and worse iteration of school vouchers that will siphon precious taxpayer resources from public schools, and send those resources to private schools, higher education institutions and other private educational services organizations that are not accountable to the public for their decisions or results.
* SB 733 will lessen educational opportunities for students, while leading to funding cuts and higher local property taxes.
* Nonpublic schools are not governed by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees students with disabilities and their parents with significant rights, services and protections related to the student’s education. The bill expressly prohibits the commonwealth or its agencies from regulating an educational program in a nonpublic school. Ultimately, families and students are more vulnerable without these protections.
* The potential financial impact of SB 733 on school districts could easily total $600 million based on estimated program utilization.
* School districts in Pennsylvania are already underfunded, and this legislation requires that state money for EOSA vouchers be deducted from a school district’s subsidy. The bill calculates the voucher by taking 90 percent of all state revenue provided to a school district, including property tax relief money, transportation subsidy and pension reimbursement, and dividing by a school district’s average daily membership (ADM) to calculate the base voucher amount. For students with disabilities, the base voucher amount would then be multiplied by either 1.51, 3.77, or 7.46 depending on the severity of the student’s disability.
* SB 733 also fails to establish consistent academic accountability for the voucher program. The bill does not require the use of Pennsylvania’s state assessment system. It gives participating students the choice of whether to use the state assessment system or a nationally-normed assessment, which will effectively prevent a true comparison and analysis of the voucher program’s effectiveness. And while test results must be reported to PDE, the department is only allowed to post the results after the third year of test and graduation data is reported.
Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
2608 Market Place
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Email: [email protected]
Proud Leadership for Pennsylvania Schools