Education Code Boosts Private Scholarships, Protects Excellent Teachers

The state House recently passed SB 227, which serves as the education code for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Chris Comisac of (paywall) has details on the substance of legislation. Two provisions of SB 227, in particular, are worth praise and support.

  1. The bill allows businesses to contribute an additional $20 million to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). Total contribution limits for the EITC would increase to $145 million, allowing more children to benefit from the highly popular scholarship program. While this $20 million increase is less than would be provided by Speaker Turzai’s HB 250, it is nonetheless a positive development for parents and children.
  2. The bill also includes language from Rep. Steve Bloom’s HB 1495, which would protect high-performing teachers in the unfortunate event of furloughs. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only six states mandating public school teacher furloughs be conducted based on seniority. Rep. Bloom’s language protects those rated “distinguished” and “proficient” by the state's teacher evaluation tool in favor of those rated “needs improvement” and “failing.” This reform passed both chambers in 2016 before it was vetoed by Gov. Wolf. Pennsylvania students deserve more than the longest-serving teachers—they deserve the best teachers. It would be welcome news for all public schools if the commonwealth finally moved away from “last-in, first-out” furlough practices. 

The school code, SB 227, must now be approved by the Senate before it reaches Gov. Wolf.