Teachers’ unions took it on the nose during the lockdowns. After they pushed to keep schools closed for months (and then folks like national teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten inexplicably blamed it on the “privilege” of Jewish Americans), unions are justly taking blame for school closures. Angry parents have taken to school board meetings and national news to openly criticize their school boards’ servility to the unions.
But even after this public beating, unions still wield brazen political power in state and local politics. How much have their dropping approval ratings dragged their power down too? That’s now being tested here in Pennsylvania.
Lawmaker’s School Choice Efforts
Lawmakers have made it a priority to expand tax-credit programs that fund scholarships for private school tuition. Doing so will allow more donations to the programs, alleviating long scholarship waitlists and providing families options they increasingly demand.
Between now and June 30, legislative leaders have the opportunity to expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, both of which prioritize students in low-performing district schools, in the impending state budget. They begin the negotiations armed with the priorities set in Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1, also known as the “Excellence in Education for All Act.”
Republican Jake Corman, Pennsylvania’s senate president pro tempore, is keen on the idea of lifting existing caps on the state’s tax-credit scholarships. “The General Assembly should be focused on empowering parents to make the best decisions for their children’s education,” he said in an interview.
“If you’re stuck in a public school that did not do a particularly good job of adapting to the pandemic, and you don’t have financial resources to move on, [right now] you just have to deal with that educational loss,” Corman added. “We have an opportunity now to expand on existing opportunities like the tax credits [scholarships], which have been successful.” But to prevail, he will need the support of fellow lawmakers who are not cowed by the power of the teachers’ unions.
Resistance from Union Heads
The effort has run into stiff opposition from the Pennsylvania State Education Association union, a
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