Lancer Letter

 

#432 Final Edinboro Journal Submission: Private School Vouchers

As you probably know, this is the final edition of the Edinboro News Journal. Starting next week, it will be combined into a West County Journal, covering information from several west county communities. This letter is my 432nd weekly submission to this publication.

As of this writing, I’ve not received official confirmation as to how often a Lancer Letter will be included in the new publication. Initial discussion was for a monthly submission.

I remain committed to keeping the community informed on a regular basis in regard to the happenings in the district and education in general. In the district we have been talking about ways to keep the information flowing on a regular basis. We will certainly continue the frequent posts on social media including, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Any time I write a new Lancer Letter it will be made available on those platforms.

Future Lancer Letters will also be on our website. If you need a Lancer Letter “fix,” remember that all 432 Lancer Letters are in the archives on our website. Go to www.generalmclane.org and go under Departments to Superintendent’s Office and the archives and current letter can be found there.

We are also talking about an email system whereby we will send emails to a large group. The purpose of this system would primarily be to communicate with persons in the community who no longer have children in the schools as this group has limited ways to know what’s happening in our schools. If you’d like to be part of that email system, please send your email address to marissaorbanek@generalmclane.org.

We know that some of you do not use electronic communication methods and we are also exploring ways to get print copy to some locations. As this all continues to develop, I would recommend you subscribe to the West County Journal so you receive that portion of the information and stay tuned for further developments.

And now, to this week’s topic:

This is the time of year things are really happening in Harrisburg. As they get ready to pass a budget, they put together an “omnibus education bill” which is a number of bills that haven’t yet been passed. There is a great deal of “horse trading” for legislators to get what they want thrown into the omnibus bill.

One bill of concern is HB 800. It seeks to increase funding for private/religious school scholarships through the EITC program by $100 million in 2019-2020 and increase that funding to $544 million/year by 2029-2030 through a built-in 10% annual escalator.

So, what is this EITC program? The Educational Improvement Tax Credit program is a tax forgiveness program whereby businesses can make donations to the fund in exchange for a significant tax break. Essentially, the state would forgo the collection of millions of dollars in taxes which would instead go to these private school scholarships. It has been referred to as the “voucher lite” program.

The funding amount set by the state (the $100 million to $544 million) is the limit to how much taxation the state will forego.

There is an EITC program for public schools in which we participate. The limit is not as high as for the private school scholarships but if you are part of a business, we’d love to talk to you about a donation!

The issue with the “opportunity scholarship program” for private schools is first and foremost accountability. We’ve been through three audits at the district this year and the painstaking process we go through to account for every penny is extensive. In this program, the private schools can use the money however they see fit with little to no accounting to the taxpayer. Secondly, you have the issue of using public money for private, sectarian purposes, something public schools must be careful to avoid. This tax diversion system is one that proponents of private schools have utilized as a “work around.” Most taxpayers don’t even know it is happening (and has been happening for a number of years).

Discussion with legislators around stronger funding for public education often involves the phrase, “we just don’t have the money.” When we get to the point of giving half a billion to the private school system, that will be even truer.

More money to charter schools. More money to private schools. More money for public schools. Maybe we should stick one system and just fund it well.