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HARRISBURG, PA (June 7, 2021) – Today, the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee voted 6-5 to advance a bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin that would divert huge amounts of taxpayer dollars from Pennsylvania’s public schools every year to spend on private school programs, tax breaks for businesses, and a massive expansion of charter schools.
PSEA President Rich Askey issued the following statement on Senate Bill 1 after the committee voted on the bill and moved it to the full Senate:
“We are extremely disappointed that so many Senate Education Committee members want to take hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools where 90% of Pennsylvania’s students learn. Members of the education committee should be helping public schools, particularly on the heels of the challenges students and educators have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sen. Scott Martin’s bill could be the largest transfer of taxpayer dollars out of public schools in Pennsylvania’s history — and just about the worst attack on public education we’ve ever seen.
“At a time when educators and communities across Pennsylvania are talking about the need for greater accountability for charter schools, this bill will bypass local decision-makers and throw what little accountability there is out the window.
“In 2019-20, traditional public schools had to pay charter schools nearly $2.2 billion. Charter school costs are rapidly becoming one of the largest single expenses for public schools. That’s why decisions about approving charter schools need to be made by local school boards that are responsible for safeguarding their taxpayers’ money. We need more transparency in our charter school system, not less.
“This bill will also provide a massive increase in tax breaks for corporations that contribute to private and religious schools. While public schools are lucky to get a funding increase on the order of 2% to 3% in any given year, this bill will give these tax break programs a whopping 68% increase next year and provide 25% increases each year after. Within five years, these tax break programs would grow to nearly $1 billion, and in 10 years the cost would triple to $3 billion.
“As Pennsylvania’s educators struggle to teach and serve students coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the worst possible time to take such a large amount of state funds from public schools, where more than 9 in 10 Pennsylvania students are educated.
“We encourage all state senators to oppose Sen. Martin’s bill. We need to focus on the needs of students rather than taking away needed resources from our public schools.”
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 178,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.