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Update on Senate Bill 1 – School Voucher Bill Heads to House

Floor Remarks Video

October 26, 2011- Sen. Jay Costa's floor remarks on Senate Bill 1

     While I was pleased to see improvements made to the legislation, I still have serious concerns about the bill and its potential negative impact on taxpayers and the bulk of students who will be left behind in struggling schools. 

     I approve of the charter school reform measures in the amended bill. The provisions contained in the legislation increase accountability.  That is a meaningful improvement. Anything that we can do to improve our schools as a whole deserves our attention.

     I am also heartened to see the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit expanded and strengthened in this bill. The EITC provides a wonderful opportunity for businesses to work in concert with our private and parochial schools. From my experiences working in the 43rd District, I know these relationships are important and meaningful. While I did vote for a separate amendment to expand this program, it did not receive a majority vote. EITC scholarships provide exceptional educational opportunities for our children. I will continue my work to make sure students, families, and businesses have the ability to participate in this valuable program.

     Despite these improvements, the bill still impacts the Pennsylvania taxpayer.  The cost to the taxpayer in future years is uncertain -- and in these fragile economic times I am hesitant to impose a further financial burden on them. Senate budget analysts estimate it would cost taxpayers $73 million in 2012-13, and $133 million in 2013-14. That is more than $200 million dollars, which is a hefty price to pay – even in the best economic times. It is also uncertain exactly how much the cost will continue to rise as the program expands.

     This legislation will also take money away from struggling, low-performing public schools. Our public schools are already hobbled by upwards of a billion dollars in reductions. In addition to the significant and drastic cuts that they’ve already experienced – many districts are making contingency plans and bracing for more cuts in future budgets. These costs will cut even deeper and potentially jeopardize more jobs. We can’t afford to create this additional and costly program in a time when Pennsylvanian taxpayers are struggling, jobs are scarce and school districts are experiencing pain from the huge budget cuts inflicted on them earlier this year. 

     Yes, our struggling schools need help and need reform. While there are facets of this bill which I support vehemently, I feel this proposal in its entirety is unfair to the taxpayer, student and school district.  It builds a situation where, potentially, the bulk of the children who need our help will not get a voucher and, as a result, will fall further behind.  That’s not fair and it doesn’t make our education system better. My goal is to work toward solutions to help all schools that are struggling and all students.”

Helping the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Read Aloud Event

Sen. Costa served as a reader for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 24-hour Read-Aloud program at the library’s downtown branch on October 14th.

     I was pleased to serve as a reader for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 24-hour Read-Aloud program at the library’s downtown branch on October 14th.  I was one of 144 participants who read for a total of 1,440 minutes on behalf of the Our Library, Our Future organization and its effort to promote increased support of our public libraries.

     On November 8th, residents of the City of Pittsburgh have the opportunity to protect one of our region’s most valuable assets – the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

     City voters will find a referendum question included on their ballot asking if they support a 0.25 mill special tax on all taxable real estate located within the city limits.  All funds raised by the increase would be used solely for support of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The increase would equal an additional $25 per year for each $100,000 of assessed value – or approximately $2 per month.

Employment and Unemployment Moving In Wrong Direction PA Works Now

     On Tuesday, the Keystone Research Center published a summary of the employment situation in Pennsylvania. With the release of September's jobs data, which included a loss of just over 15,000 jobs, a picture is emerging of a job market in Pennsylvania that is shrinking.

     If you would like to read more of the report, click here.

     Senate Democrats have introduced a comprehensive job creation plan that would not only put Pennsylvanians back to work, but also put our economy back on the right track.

     To read more about PA Works Now, click here.

      REMINDER: My next Town Hall Meeting will take place on Thursday, November 3 in Penn Hills. I hope to see you there.

Town Hall

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Property Tax and Rent Rebate program Facebook Heating Assistance / LIHEAP Official Website Video of Sen. Costa's Remarks on PA Works Now PA Works Now