Monday, April 4, 2011's what I've been hearing

Here are some samples of what people have been telling me about school vouchers from across the Commonwealth.

According to attorneys at the ALCU of PA
Two provisions of the state constitution bar the Commonwealth from funding religious schools.

Article III, Section 15 states:

No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of the sectarian.

            Article III, Section 29 states:

No appropriation should be made for charitable, educational or benevolent purposes to any person or community nor to any denomination and sectarian institution, corporation or association...

Americans for the Separation of Church and State reports

·        Despite receiving public money, private schools that participate in voucher programs are not subject to all civil rights laws that public schools are, including Title IX and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

·        Voucher payments often do not cover the entire cost of tuition or other mandatory fees for private schools.

A 2003 study concluded: "For many families, the financial burden of paying even the relatively small portion of their children's private school tuition is more than they can bear."[1] In the end, the families most likely to use a voucher are the ones who could already afford to send their kids to private schools.

·        Vouchers do not provide any "savings" to public schools. A 1999 study of Cleveland's program showed public schools from which students left for private voucher schools were spread throughout the district. The reduction in students, therefore, was negligible at individual schools. Instead, the public school district lost state funding without being able to cut overall operating costs.[2]

According to school superintendents

Under the proposed bill, education institutions can "pick and choose" which students they wish to educate. Special education students and students with "at-risk" behaviors, will likely be discriminated against because this proposed bill allows schools to "opt-out" of enrolling these students if they do not offer "appropriate programs."
     Scott V. Graham, Northern Potter School District

The choices offered to parents, at least with regard to non-public institutions, offer no way to determine whether or not their "choices" secure better results than their current schools. On this day, all of our third through eighth-grade student, and or high school juniors, are bubbling in answer sheets on the PSSA. Their scores will be thoroughly analyzed, disaggregated by a variety of demographic characteristics and publicly reported in numerous venues. We will be held accountable for their scores. Our non-public peers are not obligated by SB 1 to meet the demands of Chapter 4, nor will they be required to align their programs with the Commonwealth's even more rigorous graduation requirements with the Common Core standards and Keystone Exams are fully implemented.
     Jay Badam, School District of Erie

All testimony is available at

[1] Metcalf, Evaluation of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program: Exploring Families' & Education Choices: Technical Report, 162 (Dec. 2003)
[2] KPMG, LLP, Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program: Final Management Study (Sept. 1999)