Lancaster Onlineby Susan Knoll and Susan Spicka, September 18, 2022
July was a good month for public education in Pennsylvania. Final arguments were presented in the long-awaited public school funding lawsuit, originally filed in 2014 by parents, several school districts (including the School District of Lancaster), the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools. State lawmakers passed a budget that provided the largest increase in basic education funding — $525 million — in years. An additional $225 million was secured for the 100 lowest-wealth school districts in our state, which include the School District of Lancaster and Columbia Borough School District. These victories were hard-won by education advocates across the state, who organized rallies, phone calls and letter-writing campaigns. Yet our wins remain overshadowed by the relentless efforts of state Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin to defund public education, most notably through overpayments to privately run charter schools and the subsidization of private school tuition with public taxpayer dollars.
As chair of the state Senate Education Committee, Martin, a Republican from Martic Township, decides which education-related bills the committee will discuss and vote on, and ultimately he controls the education agenda of the Pennsylvania Senate. Aument, a Republican from West Hempfield Township, is a member of the education committee. So Lancaster County lawmakers have extraordinary influence over education policy in Harrisburg.
Unfortunately, Martin and Aument have not used their political capital to help overburdened property taxpayers in Lancaster County. Both have refused to back commonsense bipartisan legislation — supported by a majority of school boards in Lancaster County and by 87% of school boards statewide — to set a flat rate for cybercharter school tuition, rein in overpayments to charter schools, and help reduce pressure on property tax increases.
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