Michelle Twersky, the OU’s Associate Regional Political Director, had the opportunity to sit down with State Senator Rob Teplitz and discuss his thoughts on education and Pennsylvania’s Tax Credit Programs. Sen. Teplitz was elected to the state Senate in November 2012. His district includes portions of Dauphin and York Counties.
Orthodox Union: You believe that public schools are an integral part of American society and, in many cases, they offer the quality education our children deserve. But when public schools don’t work—or don’t work for a child—what do you suggest we do?
Sen. Teplitz: I believe that it is important for parents to have options on the type of schooling that is available for their children. These options include public and private schools, but also include charter and cyber charter schools and home-schooling. At the same time, I also believe that investing in the traditional public education system, which serves the majority of Pennsylvanian students, should be a priority for this Commonwealth.
Do you support the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC)? Why?
Yes. EITC supports students both in private and public schools and provides a way for companies to support their local communities. In addition, EITC also provides opportunity for children to attend early education programs, which has been proven to improve academic outcomes.
If you had the opportunity to vote for an expanded EITC this session, would you support it?
Last session, EITC was expanded by $25 million and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program was implemented with $50 million in available tax credits. We should evaluate the results of this additional spending before making additional commitments.
How do you feel about the OSTC program?
OSTC is very similar to EITC, but it targets youth who are attending an under-performing school and meet family income guidelines. OSTC was enacted in an attempt to address our under-performing schools and I think it is part of a more comprehensive solution that also includes investing in programs that are proven to increase student achievement.
What are your top legislative priorities this session?
This session, my top legislative priority for education is to address the inequalities in the Commonwealth’s charter and cyber charter school funding formula. I have drafted legislation for a costing-out study on the actual cost of charter schools in order to address the financial consequences of this choice on school districts.
What do you hope to achieve as a member of the Senate Education committee?
Education is an issue that I feel strongly about and being on the committee was a priority to me. As a member of the Education Committee, I plan to continue to be a voice for the issues I ran on in my campaign and work together with the other members on the committee to pass legislation that provides the necessary tools needed to deliver a quality education for every student.
What do you think about the governor’s “learning block grant”- a four-year block grant that will invest $1 billion in Pennsylvania public schools funded through the proceeds from the divestiture of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PCLB) State Stores System?
Tying an increase in funding for education to the sale of the PLCB’s state stores creates false choices and in the end is not right for our kids. Providing a quality education to our students is one of the most important responsibilities of state government. We must fund public education in a manner that is equitable, stable, fiscally responsible, accountable, transparent, and in the best interest of all stakeholders. Education is too important to be funded by one-time gimmicks.