Private School Voucher Hearings This Week in Pennsylvania

The battle over the proposed Pennsylvania private school voucher program continues this week as the House Education Committee holds additional hearings on the issue in Harrisburg. The Committee will hear testimony regarding the proposal on Wednesday, August 17, and Thursday, August 18. We strongly encourage you to attend and support those speaking out against private school vouchers.

Proponents claim private school vouchers could help low-income students “escape” their local public schools. So what makes vouchers bad policy? Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Hanna, the House Democratic Whip, perhaps puts it best: “Taxpayer-funded school vouchers are unaffordable, unaccountable, unpopular, unproven, and unconstitutional.”

  • Unaffordable: The Pennsylvania plan would funnel as much as one billion dollars in taxpayer funds from public to private schools over just three years. Furthermore, vouchers often do not cover the full cost of tuition for private schools, making these programs continually inaccessible to low-income students. Many students who would “benefit” from the program are already attending private schools; in upcoming years they would simply be doing so on the taxpayers’ dime. Finally, families in rural areas would pay for the program with their tax dollars but often live too far from private schools to have the option of using school vouchers themselves.
  • Unaccountable: Private schools receiving public money under the proposal are not held to the same standards as public schools. Many are not required to administer standardized tests or to meet curriculum requirements, and religious schools are permitted to discriminate in hiring and firing based on religion despite receiving state money.
  • Unpopular: In the most recent poll conducted, 61 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose a voucher system that would allocate tax dollars to paying private school tuition. Creating such a program would irresponsibly use public money in a way the majority of the public opposes while forsaking Pennsylvania’s students and public schools.
  • Unproven: Studies of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Washington, DC show no significant improvements in student achievement. With no accountability measures required of the Pennsylvania private schools that would receive vouchers, parents could not verify the quality of education their children would obtain at these schools.
  • Unconstitutional: The proposal conflicts with the Pennsylvania constitution. The state constitution clearly specifies that no public school money can be allocated to sectarian schools and no appropriation of any sort can go to educational institutions that are not under complete state control.  On any level, a private school voucher bill in Pennsylvania would be unconstitutional.

We urge you to attend the public hearings next week and let your representatives know- taxpayer-funded vouchers going to private schools are not right for Pennsylvania (or anywhere else for that matter). Click here for details on the hearings.