Late last night the Senate Appropriations Committee amended the Education Code, HB 178, without including an increase for Pennsylvania's popular tax credit scholarship programs. An earlier version of the Education Code, loaded by the House, would have increased the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) by $20 million to serve more children. Oddly, the Senate adopted most of the House's language, but nixed the EITC boost.
It is unclear why the Senate would strip a modest EITC expansion, given the program is a priority for House leadership. Plus, a $20 million EITC boost is significantly less than what the House passed back in March.
Remember, too, that the number of EITC scholarships declined in 2016, thanks to Gov. Wolf.
There is a bit of good news in the Education Code, however. The bill includes language from Rep. Steve Bloom’s HB 1495, which would protect high-performing teachers in the event of furloughs. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only six states mandating public school teacher furloughs be conducted based on seniority. Rep. Bloom’s bill 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 public schools if the commonwealth finally moved away from “last-in, first-out” furlough practices. And it would be welcome news for all schools if the final version of the Education Code included an EITC boost.