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The Republican tax bill’s assault on public education

At 2:00 am on Saturday morning, 51 US Senators voted to pass the Republican tax bill, a 479-page document that was so hastily written it had illegible policy changes scrawled in the margins. Senators were given the bill on Friday evening and told that they would have plenty of time to read it – after they voted on it.

This bill will impact far more than just individuals’ taxes. It creates a $1.4 trillion deficit; makes sweeping changes to health care, including massive cuts to Medicare; and allows for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  For a deep dive into what is in this bill and how it will impact Americans click HERE to read an analysis from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

The provisions in this bill that impact public education are deeply troubling for those of us who believe all students should have access to quality educational opportunities.

It provides huge private school subsidies for wealthy families.

The Senate bill expands 529 tax-free savings plans to allow families to put $10,000 per year into a savings account for each child’s private K-12 education.  This new benefit would be worth $30,000 in net new tax savings per child to wealthy families and worth nothing to working families that don’t have $10,000 in disposable income to set aside each year to pay for private school tuition.

This bill clearly demonstrates that legislators’ “school choice” agenda is about providing subsidies to wealthy families that send their kids to private schools and NOT about ensuring that all students, including poor children, have access to a quality education.

It undermines local investments in public schools.

The GOP tax bill caps the property tax deduction at $10,000 and eliminates the sales and income tax deductions that taxpayers can claim on their federal taxes. These changes to the state and local tax (SALT) deductions will increase the federal tax bills of people living in communities that invest heavily in their local school districts and communities. This will put significant pressure on states and school districts to reduce local taxes in order to offset the additional federal taxes people are paying and reduce overall dollars available to fund our children’s public schools.

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association stated, “The impact these changes would have on state and local governments to adequately and appropriately invest in and support critical infrastructure investments, including public schools, are unacceptable and put our nation on a path that undermines progress in student learning, graduation rates, college completion rates and career readiness.”

It creates a massive $1.4 trillion deficit, which gives anti-public education lawmakers a golden opportunity to claim that they must slash federal funding from public schools.

In PA we only need to look to 2011 to see how anti-public education lawmakers can create and exploit budget deficits to justify massive cuts in public school funding.

Governor Corbett and state lawmakers used a revenue shortfall in the 2011 state budget justify slashing nearly $900 million in public education funding. These funding cuts inflicted great harm on our students, schools, and communities. They forced school districts throughout PA to cut 20,000 educational professionals from our children’s classrooms; increase class sizes; eliminate music, art and countless other electives; raise local property taxes;  eliminate tutoring and extra help programs; and much more.

So, what happens next?

The tax bill the Senate passed has key differences from the tax bill passed in the House, so we have a chance to stop this legislation from becoming law.  The differences in the House and Senate bills will need to be reconciled and the House and Senate will need to vote again on a bill they agree on before anything can become law.  We expect lawmakers to work at lightning speed to ram this legislation through before their constituents have a chance to understand what is in it.

If you oppose the Senate Republican tax plan, please click HERE to find your US Representative’s contact information and call him today.  

Your message can be long or it can be as simple as this: My name is X and I am a constituent of Representative X. I am calling to ask him to oppose the Republican tax bill because it undermines funding for quality public education for all students.

Your call will take 2 minutes and it will make a difference by demonstrating to your representative that you are paying attention and that you care about public schools.