Here is a rundown of what is happening in Harrisburg and DC that may impact public school students in PA.
It appears the PA House has decided to put HB 97 on hold until the fall. Great, great work making calls and sending emails to your lawmakers. We will regroup over the summer and be ready in the fall to fight for good charter school reform.
State budget: Lawmakers have left town without revenue in place to pay for the budget they passed
Governor Wolf allowed the 2017-2018 budget to lapse into law without his signature after the House and Senate failed to come to an agreement on the revenue half of the budget by the July 10th deadline. Lawmakers left Harrisburg yesterday without any concrete plans for returning. Legislative leaders continue to negotiate the revenue plan that must include $2 billion in new revenues to pay for the budget they approved.
The School Code is an omnibus bill, a single document that requires a single vote, but that packages together a wide variety of different measures, many of which could not pass on their own. This year’s School Code is loaded with many measures, some good, some neutral, and two that are unacceptable. Lawmakers do not need to enact a school code in order to enact the state budget.
This year’s school code contains a $20 million increase in funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program. This will provide increases of $12 million for private/religious school tuition assistance to middle class families, $6 million for educational improvement organizations, and $2 million for Pre-K organizations.
Lawmakers should not spend a taxpayer dime helping middle class families pay private school tuition bills when public schools throughout PA continue to layoff teachers, cut programs, and raise local taxes.
Speaking of laying off teachers, the School Code also contains the controversial teacher layoff measure. Under current law, teachers may only be furloughed if schools consolidate, if student enrollment declines, or if a program is curtailed. Language in the School Code would make it easier for school districts to furlough more teachers by changing PA law and allowing school districts to use “economic reasons” as an additional reason for cutting positions.
It is truly disheartening that many lawmakers refuse to support adequate state funding for education so all of PA’s public school students have an opportunity for success, but instead are working to funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools and make it easier for school districts to cut teachers.
If the EITC increases and teacher layoff measure are not removed form the School Code, lawmakers must oppose this bill.
Don’t forget DC
At the federal level, in order to provide a massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, the Republican healthcare plan in the Senate would strip nearly $145 million in annual Medicaid reimbursements from school districts in PA and gut Medicaid funding for children with disabilities.
Click the PA-School-Based-ACCESS-Medicaid-Reimbursement-Data to see how much your school district received in Medicaid reimbursements in 2015.
The Republican healthcare plan ends a nearly 30-year commitment that the federal government has made to provide schools with guaranteed Medicaid reimbursements to help pay for vital healthcare services for eligible students with disabilities, including nursing care, physical therapy, mobility, vision, and audiology services, and many more.
Under the Republican healthcare plan, Medicaid funding is capped and federal Medicaid reimbursements for students with disabilities will no longer be guaranteed to our schools.
Senator Casey (202) 224-6324 opposes the Senate Republican healthcare plan, Senator Toomey (202) 224-4254 supports it.
If you oppose stripping Medicaid funding from schools, now is the time to call your senator. If you wait, you may be too late.