FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. James Roebuck
Roebuck: New education tax credit just a private-school bailout
Estimates 85 to 90 percent of kids getting voucher would already be in private schools
HARRISBURG, June 30 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said an education tax credit in a bill the General Assembly passed this weekend (H.B. 761) is little more than a private-school bailout.
"If your student is already in private school, congratulations because this plan would give your school a bailout through tax-credit vouchers – but if your student is in a low-performing public school, you’re probably out of luck. It’s still the private school’s choice – not the student’s choice. And it’s important to remember that a voucher will NOT get a child into a charter school since charter schools are not private – they are considered public schools," Roebuck said.
Roebuck said the new legislation would use the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program to accomplish the same goals as previous tax-funded private-school voucher bills. Businesses that donate would receive 90 percent reimbursement with state tax credits.
"The new vouchers plan still drains away funding from public schools after a one-year period. This would be bad enough on its own, but the new Corbett-Republican budget locks in last year’s nearly $1 billion cut to K-12 public education. The new vouchers bill sets public schools and their students up to fail. It is a cruel joke on struggling neighborhoods and communities," Roebuck said.
"This latest drain of funding from public school students comes as the Corbett administration has just approved four more cyber charter schools, even though there is clear evidence school districts are already forced to overpay many charter and cyber charter schools. Unfortunately, the governor and Republican legislators are apparently stalling on the need for immediate savings on those overpayments and instead setting up another Corbett administration commission. We already know what needs to be done, and we could save at least $45.8 million for the coming 2012-13 school year, with a six-year total of $510 million in savings."
Roebuck said the new voucher bill goes well beyond previous bills, both from the Ridge era in the 1990s and bills introduced in the current session. Previous voucher bills have included a phase-in that would restrict the program to students currently enrolled in public schools. The new bill does not.
Roebuck said the lack of a phase-in would mean 85 to 90 percent of the students getting a voucher would already be in private schools. "That is not how the bill was being sold, but that would be the result," he said.
A similar Ridge administration proposal estimated 87 percent of the vouchers would go to students already in private schools. In this session, the Senate fiscal note on S.B. 1 estimated 67 percent of its vouchers would go to students already in private schools.
Roebuck said other key areas of concern with the bill include:
Roebuck said his alternative to vouchers, All Students Can Succeed (H.B. 2322), has bipartisan support and should be considered by all who want to help children in the lowest-performing schools. More information about his bill is available at www.pahouse.com/Roebuck.