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Panther Valley officials protest voucher bill

Published March 11. 2011 05:00PM

Panther Valley school directors, already reeling from proposed drastic cuts in state education subsidies, on Thursday agreed to send letters to state legislators protesting a bill that could siphon millions of dollars in tax dollars to private schools by way of vouchers.

The board authorized Superintendent Rosemary Porembo to send the letters to state Senator David G. Argall and state Rep. Doyle Heffley asking them to oppose Senate Bill 1, the Opportunity Scholarships and Educational Improvement Tax Credit bill.

the Pennsylvania School Boards Association contends the vouchers will hit public schools with a double-whammy: It would divert tax dollars away from public schools and further reduce enrollment-based state subsidies. PSBA also argues the bill is unconstitutional because it would use tax money to support sectarian schools.

The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Jeff Piccola of Dauphin County, who is the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and Democratic Sen. Anthony Williams of Philadelphia.

School Director David Hiles wondered whether Panther Valley could cut unfunded mandates - regulations imposed by the government for which no funding is given - in light of the looming financial crisis.

"They give us unfunded mandates but they don't give us any money," he said. "In effect, they are making us raise peoples' property taxes."

Hiles said he hopes "that when all this shakes out, when we see how much money we're being cut, I hope we take a hard stand with the state, and say 'we are not raising peoples' taxes'."

Porembo said she would be getting together with school superintendents from Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Pike and Northampton to draft a list of all unfunded mandates and what they cost each school district. The list will be sent to Gov. Tom Corbett.

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