During a debate last week, GOP Pennsylvania State Senator Dan Laughlin claimed to be “totally on board with public education” despite supporting legislation that would cut funding for public schools and funnel money to private schools.

In 2019, Sen. Laughlin voted for HB 800, a bill to expand the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. In theory, the EITC program allows businesses and individuals to lower their tax bills by donating to scholarship programs, private schools, and other educational opportunities and groups, but in practice, the program predominately funds scholarships to religious private schools.

HB 800 doubled the size of the EITC program and even permitted wealthier families to apply for assistance. Projections show that Pennsylvania would have lost $650 million in revenue for critical state services including public schools, health care, and first responders because of this bill and the money would have flowed into private schools instead.

During Laughlin’s tenure in the legislature, public schools in Erie County have been chronically underfunded, which had dire consequences during the pandemic. This lack of funding has left them unprepared for the transition to virtual learning. They also rushed to upgrade the ventilation systems in their school buildings, a project that was already delayed because of underfunding. Additionally, Erie public schools face future budget cuts and wage freezes because of lost revenue.

Dan Laughlin is running for reelection to Pennsylvania Senate District 49 in November 2020.

Contact Chai Karve at ckarve@americanbridge.org