HARRISBURG – Senator Scott Martin (R-13), the chair of the Senate Education Committee, and other members of the committee will consider bills that would give more educational control to students’ greatest advocates: their parents.
The committee meeting will take place on November 8 at noon in meeting room 8EB and can be watched live online at the Senate Education website.
The members of the committee will vote on several pieces of legislation that are aimed at ensuring parental rights and creating transparency within educational institutions in Pennsylvania including the following:
House Bill 1660 will be amended to limit a school’s ability to shut down in-person instruction to 21 days for infectious diseases with one extension, rather than the four years that is currently allowed in law.
Senate Bill 527 would automatically increase the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) caps by 25% each fiscal year when at least 90% of the respective tax credits are claimed in the previous fiscal year.
“Students who want to benefit from the program and businesses that want to contribute to the program are both being denied. Pennsylvania’s students are losing millions of dollars of scholarships in unrealized donations that can’t be made because of the program’s current caps,” Senator Martin said.
“By increasing the caps and expanding the pool of students who are eligible to benefit from the program, we can offer students the educational opportunity that is best suited for their specific needs and give them the greatest chance at success.”
House Bill 1642, which focuses on students who attend economically disadvantaged schools through EITC and OSTC program reforms, expands the number of eligible students as well as increases scholarship amounts from up to $1,000 to up to $2,000 or up to a $4,000 if they are attending a secondary school.
Senate Bill 931 would make changes to the EITC and OSTC programs to explicitly state that payments received from any governmental agency as a result of the pandemic cannot be included in calculating household income when determining eligibility. This will prevent students from being inadvertently excluded from these educational programs.
Dual enrollment courses offered to secondary education students are known to be more affordable and can put students on a path to potentially graduate early from their post-secondary training, which has the potential to save them thousands of dollars in tuition and interest from student loan debt. Senate Bill 932 would revise the current definition of “school-related fees” within the context of the EITC and OSTC programs to allow for the use of program dollars for dual enrollment.
In addition, the Senate Education Committee will be considering a letter to offer comments and convey the objections of the committee to the Department of Education’s Charter School and Cyber Charter School proposed regulation #6-349.
After conducting a hearing on the proposed regulations on October 20th, Senator Martin drafted a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the committee to consider which expresses concerns that were voiced by various constituencies. A major concern is that PDE is using the regulatory process to circumvent the legislative process and cut out the elected representatives of the people and parents of children. Other issues with the regulations are related to the vagueness in regards to health insurance and benefit packages which would have tremendous financial implications for charter schools. In addition, the proposed regulations would limit charter school actions to pursue money that is legally owed to them.
“Parents are in the best position to decide what is the most appropriate educational setting for their children. Over the past 20 years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has worked towards providing choices to families and these proposed regulations would place an undue amount of bureaucracy and red tape on charter schools which will ultimately lead to less opportunities for the children of Pennsylvania,” stated Senator Martin.
CONTACT: Terry Trego, 717-787-6535