Final Pieces of Budget Help Schools Hire Substitute Teachers, Promote School Partnerships

HARRISBURG (July 13, 2016) A comprehensive education bill passed the Senate today as one of the final pieces of the 2016-2017 budget, and included initiatives inspired by two Lancaster-area senators to alleviate the substitute teacher shortage and incentivize the sharing of superintendents and other administrative services.

House Bill 1606, which passed by a vote of 47 to 3 earlier this afternoon, included the provisions of Sen. Lloyd Smucker’s (R-Lancaster) Senate Bill 1312, to allow prospective teachers now studying in Pennsylvania’s college and universities to substitute teach for a limited number of days.  The measure is designed to help the many schools who have struggled to find substitute teachers, sometimes opting for outsourcing, and often losing valuable instructional time by leaving classrooms uncovered.

Also included in today’s comprehensive School Code bill are the provisions of Senate Bill 1332, a bill introduced by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) to provide grants for administrative partnerships, such as the one pioneered by two Lancaster-area school districts.

“This bill will help school districts and taxpayers by encouraging shared services, easing teacher shortages and giving prospective teachers valuable experience in the classroom,” Smucker said.

The legislation approved today also expands the popular Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, awarding businesses tax credits for supporting scholarships to children, and increasing the amount from $100 million to $125 million. The bill also sets aside the first $10 million in tax credits for pre-kindergarten organizations and requires the state to give notice of application approvals to businesses within 30 days.

While Sen. Smucker voted for House Bill 1606 and its school improvements, he expressed reservations about accompanying legislation to raise revenues for the $31.6 billion budget.  He opposed the revenue-raising provisions in House Bill 1198, expressing concerns about the impact of the higher cigarette tax on the agricultural-rich Lancaster area and the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania.

The one provision he applauded in the conference report to House Bill 1198 makes necessary changes to the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) program, which he had worked to include for the City of Lancaster.

“It is good to see the uncertainty of last year’s budget impasse avoided, a spirit of bipartisanship prevail, and the enactment of a spending blueprint that funds core services and prioritizes education,” Smucker said.  “Limiting the size and cost of government continues to be a high priority for me.”

CONTACT:     Diane McNaughton, (717) 787-6535

dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov