Education stakeholders and advocates urge senators to oppose voucher bill

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Education stakeholders and advocates urge senators to oppose voucher bill

For further information contact:
Chris Lilienthal (717) 255-7134
David Broderic (717) 255-7169

HARRISBURG, PA (May 23, 2022) – The Pennsylvania State Education Association joined 28 other education organizations today to urge state senators to oppose legislation that would siphon millions of dollars from public schools to pay for private school tuition and other expenses.

This bill will cost Pennsylvania schools most in of need of state resources $144 million each year, if only 10% of eligible students take advantage of the tuition voucher program.

The Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers Coalition sent all state senators a letter setting forth the reasons for coalition members’ strong opposition to the bill.

“This bill is a truly terrible piece of education policy,” PSEA President Rich Askey said. “It’s nothing less than a full attack on public education. It would take $144 million from school districts most in need of state resources and give it to parents to spend on private school tuition, fees, uniforms, tutoring, computers, or all kinds of other educational expenses.”

House Bill 2169 was approved by the state House of Representatives on April 27. It would create a tuition voucher program for students in “low-performing” schools, costing those schools at least $144 million annually. It would also establish a broad and vague list of allowable expenditures and institutionalize a system that is susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

The cost of the program would increase dramatically if more students access it. If 20% of eligible students access tuition vouchers, the cost would be $287 million each year. If one-third of eligible students access the vouchers, the cost would be $474 million each year.

“House Bill 2169 is one of the most egregious voucher attacks we’ve ever seen,” Askey added. “It robs the neediest school districts of precious resources; opens the door for unprecedented waste, fraud, and abuse; includes zero academic or fiscal accountability; and does nothing to improve education for anyone.”

In its letter to senators, the coalition listed 10 reasons why senators should oppose House Bill 2169:

  1. It is susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse.
  2. It contains a broad and vague list of allowable expenses.
  3. It includes no real academic accountability.
  4. It effectively prohibits non-public schools from complying with IDEA or state regulations related to students with special needs.
  5. It contains a financial incentive for identifying students with special needs.
  6. It requires an impossible timeline to get the program up and running for the 2022-23 school year.
  7. It requires school districts to provide transportation for voucher students to and from participating entities and to tutors, higher education institutions, etc.
  8. It would take state funding that school districts receive for property tax reduction and for pension reimbursement and give that money to voucher students.
  9. It includes no requirement to verify a student’s residency in a “low-achieving school.”
  10. It is carefully crafted to limit its impact on charter and cyber charter schools that have been identified in the bottom 15% of public schools.

The coalition’s letter concluded by saying: “There are far more pressing problems within public education that deserve the attention of policymakers. It is truly disappointing that this legislation, which so obviously seeks to respond to a singular viewpoint on the commonwealth’s education system, continues to be such a focal point this year.”

View the full letter here.

An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 178,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.