Category Archives: Taxes & budgets

Tell your state lawmakers to OPPOSE SB 2, legislation that would bring a new generation of Betsy DeVos’s school vouchers called education savings accounts (ESAs) to PA

[The Senate Education Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, December 12th at 10:30 am in Room 8E-A in the East Wing of the Harrisburg Capitol to vote (again) on a very disturbing bill. From Chester County, that Committee includes Sen Andy Dinniman; share your thoughts with Sen. Dinniman on his site or at 717-787-5709 (your thoughts do count, and get counted and cited).

This bill is part of an ongoing Republican effort to sabotage public education (of which the ballot question that passed last month was an integral part). SB 2 would take money away from the school districts that most need it and turn it over to non-public schools. If legislators want to help students, they should adequately fund public schools, not take away their money! And let us not think that Chester County, whose schools are among the best in the state, would be unaffected; rather, any student from anywhere in the state could bring ESA (voucher) status to Chester County and attend a private or religious school at the expense of the very public school system that could be meeting the student’s needs. See the part in red below.]

Below is from Education Voters of PA at The Action Network

SB 2 proposes to create a new and costly government entitlement program that will take taxpayer money out of public schools and give it to parents to spend on private school tuition and other educational expenses. Under SB 2, families whose children attend or have attended a low-performing school* will receive an education savings account (ESA) filled with taxpayer money if they withdraw their child from public school. Funding for ESAs would be subtracted from the state funding a student’s school district receives and put into an ESA for that student’s family to spend.

ESAs will drain desperately-needed funding from public schools and reduce access to educational opportunities for all students in order to fund the private education of a few.

ESAs enshrine discrimination against Pennsylvania’s children into law. ESAs enable the resegregation of public schools and allow private schools accepting taxpayer dollars to discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, and disability status. Students with disabilities, if they are permitted to enroll in a private school, must give up their rights under Federal law to an appropriate education.

ESAs are designed to benefit wealthy families, not families with low or modest incomes. The amount of funding a family receives in an ESA in many cases will not be enough to cover the full tuition at a private school.

ESAs are expensive to administer and financial oversight and accountability are limited, leaving taxpayer dollars ripe for waste, fraud, and abuse. Arizona, which has had ESAs for 6 years, has seen families use ESA funding to make non-educational purchases and other fraud. Once families spend these taxpayer dollars, it is almost impossible to recover them.

ESAs can impact any school district, not just districts with low performing schools. A student who receives an ESA is eligible for an ESA for the rest of his K-12 school career, regardless of school district he lives in. When students with ESAs move, their new school districts will have state funding reduced by the amount that is deposited into the student’s ESA.

There is no academic oversight or accountability for private schools that would receive public funding. SB 2 does not require private schools to administer state assessments or require any regulation or oversight over the education that private schools provide students.

It is deeply troubling that instead of focusing on adequately funding public schools, which educate 90% of PA’s students and are open to every child, many lawmakers are instead working to advance the agenda of the school privatization lobby, which will create more costs for taxpayers and even deeper deprivation for students in public schools.

Please contact your legislators today and urge them to oppose SB 2.

*Low performing schools are those that are in the bottom 15% of performers based on PSSA and Keystone exam scores. These do not include charter schools or career and technical education centers.

Grad students say GOP provision will tax them out of school

by Aubrey Whelan, philly.com, 12/8/17

Katie Warczak has had a productive first year in her graduate program at Penn State University.

She taught a class of undergraduates, landed a coveted spot on a research project, and got accepted into her department’s Ph.D. program. But these days the student of 20th century American literature is focusing more and more on something far afield from her area of expertise: the tax bill moving through Congress.

That’s because, if a single provision in the House version of the bill makes it into the final law, Warczak says she’ll likely have to leave school. She won’t be able to afford the taxes.

Large universities’ infrastructures depend in part on the work of graduate students, who pay taxes on the small stipends they get for teaching classes and conducting research. But competitive schools like Penn State generally sweeten the deal by waiving their tuition fees, too.

It’s money that grad students say never actually makes its way into their wallets. But it’s money the House has proposed taxing as income, in a move that tax experts say would upend the finances of students who, in many cases, are cash-strapped as it is.

A doctoral student with a $15,000-per-year stipend and a tuition waiver of $40,000 could end up paying as much as $5,000 more in taxes….

keep reading at philly.com

Protesters to Costello: Vote against tax bill

By Bill Rettew, Daily Local News, 12/8/127

WEST CHESTER >> Fifteen demonstrators urged U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, to vote against a proposed GOP tax overhaul bill during a Thursday sit-in protest at his local office.

Several organizations were represented, including an anti-pipeline group, labor union leaders, religious organizations, environmentalists and West Chester University students.

Protesters entered the congressional office at 9 a.m. and left at 1:30 p.m. Some stood, while others sat on the floor discussing their concerns with Costello’s staff….

keep reading at Daily Local News

Demonstrators sit in at Rep. Costello’s (R-PA 06) office

A few of the 15 protesters sitting in Rep. Costello’s (R-PA 06) West Chester office demanding that he vote against the GOP tax bill that gives tax cuts to the wealthy while hurting students, the sick, and the elderly. They have pledged not to leave until Costello commits to a No vote. For more on the GOP tax scheme, see Molly sheehan’s “Open Letter to Rep. Pat Meehan on the GOP Tax Plan.”