Trib editorial: Pa. School Code changes benefit students
Some of the most sweeping changes in Pennsylvania's Public School Code in recent years will boost opportunities for school choice and retain the best teachers during staff furloughs.
The multifaceted legislation, HB 178, automatically became law after Gov. Tom Wolf opted not to sign or veto the bill within the requisite 10-day period. Contained therein are reforms that should make a meaningful difference — for students.
Among other things, the legislation increases the amount of tax credits under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) from $125 million to $135 million. EITC allows state businesses to divert a portion of their taxes to scholarship organizations, which in turn provide private-school scholarships to Pennsylvania families trapped in poorly performing schools. Hence, more school choice.
Not only have studies found that school choice improves student outcomes — notably in Washington, D.C., for low-income children — these initiatives over the years have saved taxpayers more than $1 billion because the alternative often costs less than traditional public schools, according to the Commonwealth Foundation.
The new law also requires districts to review teacher performance over seniority when economic conditions dictate furloughs. Clearly the fate of teachers in these situations shouldn't be determined solely on when they were hired. Moreover, “last in, first out” doesn't necessarily benefit students.
And putting students first should be the substance of any reform.