Vouchers Are Back! Senate Education Committee to Vote on Senate Bill 2 Tomorrow

email from PA Schools Boards Association, 12/11/17

URGENT: Tell your Senator to vote NO on Senate Bill 2

After a failed attempt to run voucher legislation under Senate Bill 2 (Sen. DiSanto, R-Dauphin) in October, the Senate Education Committee has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 12, to push out the bill. This legislation creates a voucher program for taxpayer-dollars to be taken from public school subsidies and given to nonpublic schools. Your calls and emails are needed immediately to stop this flawed scheme from being moved on a fast track.

Under the bill, parents of students in low-achieving schools can receive funds in the form of Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to attend a participating nonpublic school and for other expenses. Low achieving is defined as the lowest performing 15% of elementary and secondary public schools, based on PSSA and Keystone Exam scores. (This does not include charter schools or CTCs.) Those school districts would see their basic and special education subsidies reduced by the amount calculated for each participating student, with that money put into an ESA account for parents to use for “qualified education expenses.”

We need to block passage of Senate Bill 2 and this latest attempt to sell vouchers. If the bill is approved by the Education Committee, it could go to the full Senate for a vote. Please take a moment to contact your senators, even if they are not on the Education Committee. …send a letter to your senator or craft your own message using the talking points below to make the case against vouchers. (click here for links to additional contact information for senators.)

Talking Points:

There is no academic oversight or accountability for voucher schools. There is no public, objective way to evaluate how well private schools meet student needs because there is no oversight of the education provided at private schools. There is no state accountability for academic outcomes, no state assessments for students required, no oversight or regulation of the education provided at private schools. How can parents who are considering enrolling at a school properly assess the value of the school? How can taxpayers who are funding this program measure its success?

The few provisions intended to provide some accountability, both academically and financially, are shallow, inconsistent and vague. The bill does little to prevent fraud and abuse of the system, while serving to take more money from the public school system to subsidize private education.

Vouchers reduce fair access to educational opportunity for all students and are unresponsive to the issue of poverty. They divert scarce resources from public schools that serve all students to pay for private schools for a few. Many of the lowest-performing schools are already struggling financially and cannot afford to receive less resources.

Vouchers do nothing to improve the education of all students. Creating a separate education system does nothing to address inadequacies or issues with the existing public school system. Most high-poverty schools still operate with fewer instructional resources and supports compared to schools in wealthy communities.

We should focus on fixing public schools – where 90% of children go – not taking money away from them for the 10% who go to private schools. Taxpayers cannot afford to fund both private and public schools. Private schools pick and choose students. Public schools do not pick and choose their students. Public schools are open to every child.

Vouchers weaken the rights of students, especially those with with disabilities because private schools are not subject to federal special education law and can deny services to students. Students in public school are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. They have protections related to discipline and mandated help for behavioral issues. None of these protections are applicable to private school students. Students with disabilities and their families must waive hard-won legal protections when enrolling in a nonpublic school.

Vouchers will create greater fiscal distress/budgeting problems for school districts. With no deadlines, timelines or notifications required about students who will participate in the program, school districts cannot prepare for the impacts on their budgets. In addition, vouchers divert resources from public education but do not adequately reduce costs. When a student leaves a school district to enroll in a nonpublic school, the district’s fixed, semi-fixed and some variable costs associated with that student do not just disappear (costs such as building operations and maintenance, utilities, technology, food service, staff salaries and benefits, etc.). And requirements to transport students to nonpublic schools within a 10-miles radius will increase transportation costs for affected districts.

Tell your senator that the ESA voucher plan robs public schools to enrich private schools. This amounts to a taxpayer giveaway to private schools. Senate Bill 2 falls short of the mark in too many areas to be worthy of support.

Thank you for your advocacy efforts!

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