Pennsylvania Vouchers Hearing This Wednesday in Philadelphia

This Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House Education Committee will be holding a day-long hearing on the proposed statewide private school voucher program. This hearing is part of the Committee’s summer hearing series, which will take the Committee across the state. Usually, such events are held at the state capitol, in Harrisburg, but this hearing will be held in Philadelphia, PA. We encourage those of you in the Philly area to take advantage of the rare opportunity to address the Committee in your city. Please attend the hearing and show your opposition to the creation of a school voucher program in your state.

The Pennsylvania legislature has been dealing with the voucher issue all session. The issue has so far taken a few forms in the legislature (SB 1 and HB 1708), each aiming to divert as much as $1 billion in taxpayer funds from public to private and parochial schools. Voucher supporters, however, have been unable to get the bill through the Pennsylvania General Assembly thus far.

School voucher programs around the country have proven to be problematic for a number of reasons, and if such legislation is passed, Pennsylvania would be no exception. First, participation in voucher programs does not improve students’ educational outcomes. Studies conducted in Cleveland, the District of Columbia, and Milwaukee show no improvement in student achievement as a result of participating in voucher programs, and in the case of Milwaukee, worse academic performance by those in voucher-funded private schools.

Second, students attending private schools would lose a number of rights and protections offered in public schools. In most voucher programs private schools are not required to abide by Title IX, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or antidiscrimination requirements regarding religion in hiring, even when receiving public funds in the form of a voucher.

Non-public schools are also exempt from most accountability and assessment laws required of public schools, and private schools do not all administer the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). Of those that use standardized testing, a number of private schools have test scores comparable to those public schools listed as “low performing” by the proposal.

Perhaps most importantly, a statewide private school voucher program would violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states: “No money raised for the support of the public schools… shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.” Another section further establishes that the government will not fund any school that is not under the complete control of the state unless a two-thirds majority of each chamber votes to do so.

Pennsylvania citizens oppose the creation of a private school voucher program and implementation of such a program would be both expensive and damaging to students.

Show your support for public schools by attending the House Education Committee hearing this Wednesday. Details can be found here.