Approved Budget Preserves Funding for State Tax Credit Programs—Key Funding for PA Jewish Day Schools
For Immediate Release Contact:
July 10, 2014 Roslyn Singer, 212-613-8227
OU Advocacy’s work with Pennsylvania legislators promoting a solution for a “hiccup” within the Safe School Legislation—passed last summer—that prevented Jewish day schools and other non-public schools from participating in a grant program for school resource officers culminated with Governor Corbett signing Senate Bill 1194 into law today. The amendment to the Safe School Legislation will significantly improve non-public schools’ access to school resource officers and potentially provide millions of dollars for Jewish day school security funding.
Pennsylvania’s Safe School Legislation is the first in the nation to allow state funding to be used for personnel. As part of the legislation, the School Resource Officer-Municipality Targeted Grant provides up to $60,000 for non-public schools that do not have funds available for school resource officers.
Since non-public schools cannot receive money directly from the state, however, they were required to apply for this funding through their local municipality. Unfortunately, many municipalities refused to apply for the grants on behalf of these schools due to the high cost of a private school resource officer—precluding Jewish day schools and other parochial schools from participating in the program and leaving millions of dollars on the table.
Michelle Twersky, associate director of OU Advocacy’s Mid-Atlantic region, recognized the problem and worked closely with State Senator Joe Scarnati, who developed the original Safe School Legislation, to devise a solution that would give non-public schools access to the grant.
The legislation passed today allows Pennsylvania’s non-public schools to apply directly to the Commonwealth for the grant. Once selected, a non-public school would choose a guard from a list of state-approved vendors—replicating the model through which non-public schools receive funding for textbooks.
“We are very grateful to Gov. Corbett for signing the amendment today, to Sen. Scarnati for his unwavering support on this issue and to all our allies in the Senate and the House of Representatives who voted for the amendment,” said Twersky. “With today’s signature by Gov. Corbett, all schools—public and non-public—have access to the School Resource Officer Grant.
Mrs. Besie Katz, principal of Politz Hebrew Academy in Philadelphia, said, “Providing a safe environment for our children must be our first priority in education. Having access to the School Resource Officer grant will allow us to sleep a little easier at night knowing that we are doing our best to keep our children safe and secure.”
“We are deeply grateful for the overwhelming support from Gov. Corbett and both chambers of the legislature for the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act. The first ingredient for any great school is a safe and secure environment in which student learning can flourish and thrive. This critical legislation affords schools such as ours the opportunity to continue doing exactly that for the children of Pennsylvania,” said Rabbi Dr. Gil Perl, Head of School for Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Greater Philadelphia.
“By passing this amendment, both Gov. Corbett and our state legislators have affirmed that the safety and security of all of the Commonwealth’s students is paramount, regardless of where one goes to school,” said Karen Barall, Mid-Atlantic Director for OU Advocacy.
OU Advocacy-PA also praised Gov. Corbett and Pennsylvania’s legislative leadership for preserving the funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program in the Commonwealth’s budget, which was signed by Gov. Corbett today.
The EITC and OSTC programs are funded at $100 million and $50 million, respectively, and provide millions of dollars each year in scholarships for low- and middle-income families across Pennsylvania. For some Jewish day schools, this funding is a lifeline—with as much as 40 percent of their students receiving scholarships through the EITC and OSTC programs.
In June, OU Advocacy-PA brought 300 members of Pennsylvania’s Jewish community, including 200 high school students, to Harrisburg to advocate for the two tax credit programs. Representatives from Jewish communities throughout the state, including Philadelphia, Scranton, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, the students from Philadelphia’s Kohelet Yeshiva High School and Kosloff Torah Academy, as well as parents and school administrators representing a wide cross-section of Pennsylvania’s Jewish day schools, conveyed to legislators how indispensable the Commonwealth’s tax credit programs are for Jewish day schools. Organized into small groups to meet with legislators from their districts, 56 meetings were held during the course of the advocacy day.
“We are tremendously appreciative of the OU’s efforts to organize the advocacy day and enable us to express to our legislators how important the EITC and OSTC programs are for our school. These programs have a tremendous impact on our entire school community by allowing us to provide scholarships to a significant percentage of our students. We are very grateful that the funding for both programs was preserved,” said Rabbi Yaakov Deutscher, executive director of Kosloff Torah Academy.
“The passage of the Safe School Legislation’s amendment and the preservation of the EITC and OSTC programs in the approved Pennsylvania budget reflect the hard work of Pennsylvania’s Jewish day school community and how our advocacy efforts yield real results,” said Barall.
The Orthodox Union is the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization; the OU Advocacy Center, formerly the Institute for Public Affairs, is the non-partisan public policy arm of the OU and leads its advocacy efforts in Washington, DC and state capitals.