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October 14, 2017 Letters to the Editor

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Pennsylvania voters will be asked to make a major decision in November: a ballot referendum called “Amending the Homestead Property Tax Assessment Exclusion” will ask them to amend the constitution to potentially change how schools are funded.

And they’ll be asked to decide this in an off-year election, when voters typically stay home in droves. I strongly urge voters to leave their homes on Nov. 7 and vote no.

Last week the referendum was advertised in Pennsylvania newspapers. If you read that notice and had trouble understanding it, you’re not alone. The legal jargon in this ballot question is overwhelming and no doubt a deliberate attempt to confuse Pennsylvanians. Here’s all you need to know: vote no!

To summarize this confusing amendment, a yes vote would clear the way for legislators to eliminate property taxes for homeowners. That sounds good in theory, but getting rid of property taxes would strip vital funding from communities, with the biggest impact on school districts. As of right now, the state funds a little over 40 percent of any given school district’s budget, with the rest of the funding coming mostly from property taxes. Eliminating the property tax without a viable plan for replacing that money is irresponsible and shortsighted. Vote no!

My State Senator Scott Hutchinson (a Republican) opposes the amendment for this very reason. According to his staff, Hutchinson believes the amendment could especially harm rural schools by stripping them of vital funding.

Ultimately, this amendment clears the way for defunding public schools, not an unthinkable leap. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos has been clear that she does not support public schools. With this amendment, state voters will have their chance to either stand with Devos or with public schools. Vote no!

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