Fiscal Analysis Of Voucher Scheme Documents Costs To Taxpayers
For further information contact:
Wythe Keever, PSEA HQ (717) 255-7107
David Broderic, PSEA HQ (717) 255-7169
HARRISBURG (October 26, 2011) – A new government program approved by the state Senate today to provide tax-funded tuition vouchers to students attending private and religious schools would cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $200 million by 2013-14.
Costs to taxpayers are likely to rise as the program expands, the president of the state’s largest school employee union noted today.
Michael J. Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the costs of the program created in Senate Bill 1 would come at the expense of students attending public schools, who began this school year suffering the impact of $860 million in state funding cuts.
“Senate Bill 1 is a bad choice for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers, public schools, and the students who learn there,” Crossey said. “This legislation would drain more resources from public school students who are already feeling the consequences of brutal school funding cuts. Even though two-thirds of Pennsylvanians oppose vouchers, this bill would put the burden of this very bad and costly choice on the backs of taxpayers, schools and students.”
A fiscal note released today by Senate Democrats indicates that Senate Bill 1 would cost the taxpayers $73 million in 2012-13, and $133 million in 2013-14 for the voucher program.
Crossey urged legislators in the state House of Representatives to oppose the bill, which in addition to the tuition voucher scheme, allows for charter school expansion and tax credit plans that would take even more funds from local school districts.
“Public schools educate every student who comes through their doors and are accountable for everything they do and every nickel they spend,” Crossey said. “This voucher bill spends the taxpayers’ money on schools and programs that don’t live by those rules. It is a terrible choice that couldn’t come at a worse time.”
The voucher scheme under Senate Bill 1 is also flawed with a lack of accountability measures. Schools receiving vouchers would not be required to report on student progress using the same standardized tests Pennsylvania public schools are required to administer to students.
“Pennsylvanians don’t want tuition vouchers and they don’t want funding for their public schools cut,” Crossey said. “This bill does both. It is definitely taking public education in the wrong direction.”
Crossey also pointed out that several pro-voucher organizations last spring publicly advocated for rapid expansion of such schemes. “That means the cost to the taxpayers would only increase,” Crossey said.
The recent Terry Madonna Opinion Research poll shows Pennsylvanians oppose tuition voucher plans by a wide margin. The same poll indicated that 69 percent of respondents opposed Gov. Tom Corbett’s $860 million in public school funding cuts, which have forced school districts to increase class sizes and eliminate programs that work for students.
In contrast, polling indicates that more than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians support initiatives like early childhood education, school safety and class size reduction. These are among the initiatives in PSEA’s Solutions That Work package, a set of recommendations backed by research and based on classroom experience. Crossey sent these recommendations to every member of the General Assembly.
A recent study released by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials showed that state funding cuts have forced school districts to increase class sizes, eliminate course offerings, and cut tutoring programs.
“Students are already paying the price for Governor Corbett’s budget cuts, and Senate Bill 1 would only make things worse for them,” Crossey said.
Crossey is a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District. A state affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 193,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.