HomeNewsWolf vetoes bill expanding scholarship program for private schools

Wolf vetoes bill expanding scholarship program for private schools

Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would have expanded the Educational Improvement Tax Credit.

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“We have an accountable public education system in place that is underfunded. I have and I will continue to fight to fully fund Pennsylvania’s public schools,” he said.

In a veto message to the House of Representatives, Wolf wrote, “We have public schools that are structurally deteriorating, contaminated by lead and staffed by teachers who are not appropriately paid and overstretched in their responsibilities. Tackling these challenges, and others, should be our collective priority.”

The governor said the EITC lacks proper accountability and oversight, claiming that little is known about the educational outcomes of students participating in the program. He believes families making $95,000 a year should not be eligible.

EITC allows businesses to take a write-off on their state taxes in exchange for donations to scholarship organizations. Needy students have used EITC funding to attend schools of their choice.

Republicans proposed expanding the annual funding from $110 million to $210 million, along with increasing the maximum yearly income from $85,000 to $95,000.

In the Senate, Sens. Tina Tartaglione and John Sabatina Jr. opposed the bill.

In the House, the bill was supported by Reps. Tom Murt, Martina White and Mike Driscoll and opposed by Reps. Kevin Boyle, Ed Neilson, Joe Hohenstein, Jason Dawkins, Jared Solomon and Isabella Fitzgerald.

Prior to the veto, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey wrote a letter to Wolf, calling on him to sign the bill, even though he indicated he was opposed.

“It is breathtaking that one could reach this conclusion with the knowledge that approximately 40,000 Pennsylvania children are currently on a waitlist to receive scholarships. In the 2016-17 school year, 43 percent of scholarship applicants were turned down because there were not enough scholarships available. This is not for lack of available donations: Businesses have over $105 million on the donations waitlist. Increasing the tax credit cap would allow this funding to benefit tens of thousands of lower-income kids in the state,” Toomey said.

“The educational futures of Pennsylvania children should not be jeopardized by political games or partisan politics. I urge you to sign this legislation.”

Pennsylvania Catholic Conference executive director Eric Failing said, “We are disappointed with the governor’s decision to veto a long-overdue expansion of Pennsylvania’s important EITC program, given that so many families are on a waiting list to receive help. EITC provides parents with the opportunity to choose schools they believe are best for their families. We will continue to work with the Pennsylvania General Assembly on an EITC expansion.”

Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a scholarship organization, said, “Gov. Wolf, with the stroke of his veto pen, has squandered an opportunity to help thousands of parents who through these scholarships can give their children the best education.”

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, supported the veto. He said, “The message in the governor’s veto memo was very clear: instead of trying to advance unproven and unaccountable voucher schemes, the General Assembly should be working on proposals to increase public education funding that would restore programs and services for children, and invest in improvements to make all Pennsylvania school buildings safe, clean and healthy.

“The PFT thanks Gov. Wolf for continuing to be a champion for Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren, and we pledge to keep working with legislators to prevent similar voucher language from being inserted in to the PA School Code as part of this year’s budget negotiations.” ••

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