Unproven, unaccountable voucher plan could cost taxpayers $1 billion
The tuition voucher program proposed in the State Senate could cost as much as $1 billion and could do lasting damage in Pennsylvania public schools.
PSEA Vice President Mike Crossey testified at a state Senate Education Committee hearing on Senate Bill 1, where he outlined reasons that the creation of a tax-funded voucher program is not in the best interest of taxpayers or students.
“We know that spending up to $1 billion on a voucher plan, when school funding could be reduced by $1 billion, would shortchange our public schools," Crossey said. “Today, when we are watching every government expenditure, we know that we can't afford to spend $1 billion on private schools that are not required to account for how they use the tax dollars and aren’t required to prove their effectiveness.”
Crossey, who is a teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District, explained that the bill lacks basic accountability measures to protect tax dollars or to determine whether vouchers have any impact on student achievement. In other states and cities where vouchers have been tried, so-called “education entrepreneurs” engaged in deceptive practices, misusing taxpayer dollars for personal gain. Others engaged in scams, receiving voucher checks for students who never attended classes.
Crossey also addressed the greatest misconception about tuition voucher schemes - “parental choice.”
“No matter how much or how often proponents hype this proposal as parental choice, the fact is that private schools decide which students to accept and which students to turn away,” Crossey said.
“The private schools still maintain complete discretion over whom they do or do not enroll. This means that many students will be blocked at the door and denied access because the private schools simply will not enroll them. For many students, vouchers offer no choice at all.”
Crossey called for targeting resources at struggling students and the public schools that serve them and pledged PSEA’s willingness to engage in a discussion about targeted changes that will have a true, measureable impact.
“We need to increase school safety measures, increase family involvement in their public schools and make them beacons in their communities,” he said.
“Pennsylvania’s public schools are among the best in the nation, and we can all be proud of our students. Let’s continue to build on that success, because Pennsylvania’s taxpayers simply don’t have the ability to pay for an experimental program, ripe for abuse and with no ability to measure its effectiveness.”
Crossey's testimony is available online.
Find more information at www.psea.org/vouchers.