Category Archives: PA House

One more reason big change is needed in the PA legislature

“Pennsylvania State Rep. Compares School Boards to Hitler” by Diane Ravitch, 11/3/16

Peter Greene, who teaches in Pennsylvania tells us about the educationally-challenged state representative who compared democratically elected school boards to Hitler. Hitler’s blamed everything on the Jews, and local school boards blame everything on charter schoools. Got that?

Greene writes:

“Brad Roae’s district is just up the road from me and just down the road from Erie, where the schools have made some headlines with their economic issues, to the point that their board was seriously considering closing all of its high schools. Erie is one of several school districts that highlight the economic troubles of school districts in Pennsylvania. It’s a complex mess, but the basic problems boil down to this.

“First, Pennsylvania ranks 45th in the country for level of state support for local districts. That means the bulk of school district funding comes from local taxpayers, and that means that as cities like Erie with a previously-industrial tax base have lost those big employers, local revenue has gone into freefall, opening up some of the largest gaps between rich and poor districts in the country.

Restoring education cuts: the House bill vs. the Senate bill

The PA state budget saga (or is it now a farce?) continues, with the Republican-majority Senate and the Republican-majority House at odds with each other. A very good reason, in 2016, to give Gov. Wolf more legislators who will put the public interest above placating anti-education forces.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has posted a downloadable list for all PA school districts so we can all draw our own conclusions. The chart below is extracted to show the 12 school districts primarily in Chester County plus to two partly in Chester County:

Chesco school districts in budget

Cuts in 2011-12
shows the amounts taken from classroom education under Gov. Corbett. Roughly speaking, the more the district needs help, the more funding the state took away; and the wealthier the district, the less it lost. No comment needed.

SB 1073 is the “framework bill” resulting from long budget negotiations (almost a year now, starting well before the budget was due on June 30), which passed by the Senate 43-7 on Dec. 12, and which the House was expected to approve and Gov. Wolf to sign. Though the per-student figures show that the increase would not make up for the Corbett cuts, at least it would make a good contribution and show legislators’ good will. But Republican leadership did not allow a vote.

HB 1460 is the retrograde version, similar to one vetoed by Gov. Wolf in June, and that the Republican-majority Senate just passed, after it failed to pass SB 1073, just before it went home for Christmas break. As the per-student column shows, the amounts are piddly compared to the need and don’t even seem to measure up to inflation.

Furthermore, the General Assembly’s failure to balance the state budget means it cannot fund bonds for construction loans needed by school districts, resulting in further losses to education.

Gov. Wolf has just partially vetoed the appropriations bill, but letting through emergency funding to help schools in the second half of 2015.

It’s Time To Pass a Budget and Move Pennsylvania Forward!

by CCDC Chairman Brian McGinnis, 12/23/15

We all know that Pennsylvania’s Republican Legislature is intent on ignoring the historic victory won by Tom Wolf last fall. They have crafted a budget that ignores the platform that was endorsed by the voters when they elected him. But politics aside, the Legislature should act on good policies because they benefit our state, not just because the Governor won the election. So it is even more important to note that the Republican budget ignores what the data say about the state of our state.

According to a study by Wallet Hub, Pennsylvania ranks 39th in property taxes (1st being the lowest and 50th being the highest). The Governor proposed a reasonable property tax relief proposal modeled off previous related legislation that provides relief to everyone while directing the most relief to seniors and others who need it most. The Republican budget fails to provide one new dollar for property tax relief for anyone.

According to the Keystone Research Center, we are the only major gas-producing state that does not have a severance tax. PBPC also states that about 90% of gas drilled in Pennsylvania is consumed in other states. So while Pennsylvania remains the cheapest place to drill for gas, the savings are passed on to residents in other states. The Republican Budget fails to enact an extraction tax like the Governor has demanded.

According to CNBC, Pennsylvania ranks 40th among states for their business environment. The Governor, a successful businessman himself, proposed massive cuts to the nation’s highest corporate tax rate and loophole reform to make sure our business taxes are applied equally, which all-told would result in a reduction in business taxes by about one third. Despite their loud pronouncements about business-friendliness, the Republican Budget includes no new business tax relief.

According to the Education Law Center, Pennsylvania ranks 41st in the percentage of school funding that comes from the state. We rely mostly on local sources instead. This partially explains why, according to the Keystone Research Center, Pennsylvania ranks 1st in educational inequality – by a wide margin. Instead of the Governor’s $1 Billion in new funds for education, distributed via a new Fair Funding Formula, the Republican budget offers PA’s 500 school districts less than $10 Million in total new funding.

Chester County Legislators should put ideology aside and look at the numbers! Our state has big issues to address. The Republican Legislature’s budget addresses none of them. They should put aside political games and work with the Governor to pass a budget based on practical solutions to our state’s challenges.