Friday, May 27, 2011

Pennsylvania Vouchers - A Correction and Response

There was a serious mistake in yesterday’s DR News. We wrote: “According to the Senate’s official fiscal note, only about 8% of vouchers would go to poor children in the lowest performing schools. Nearly 67% of the vouchers would go to children in middle-class families who already send their children to private and religious schools.”

In fact, all of the children to be served are low-income children, not middle-class children, in the years described in the Senate’s fiscal note. A special thanks to Pete DeCoursey at for setting us straight.

We apologize for this error. However, it does allow us to respond to questions and concerns raised by readers, all in the context of whether taxpayers are getting value for their money.

Vouchers are being sold as a way for children to leave low-performing public schools. 

However, the overwhelming majority of students who will get vouchers already have left public schools (or never were in them), whether they were low-performing or not.

Also, they are attending schools of unknown quality. In the absence of a universal system of academic and financial accountability, it is hard to justify requiring taxpayers to support private and religious schools that may, in fact, be worse than the public schools. It also begs the question of whether students in nonpublic schools really need a state subsidy if their parents already can afford to send their children to nonpublic schools. Shouldn’t voucher money be reserved for poor students whose parents cannot afford to make that choice?

In the beginning, the voucher program is limited to students in low-performing public schools. In the second year, the program expands to students in the attendance area of low-performing schools, regardless of whether the student actually attends the school, including students already in nonpublic schools. By the third year, the program expands statewide, providing tax-funded vouchers for nonpublic schools, regardless of how well the public schools perform or how poorly the nonpublic schools perform. The question of whether taxpayers are getting value for their money is conspicuous.

Several readers wrote to ask what the difference is to taxpayers whether money goes to a public or nonpublic school as long as the child is being educated. Even assuming that the schools are of the same academic quality, there still are important differences.

Attending public schools is not just requirement (unless the student attends some other school or is home-schooled); it is a legally enforceable right. It also is a constitutional duty of the General Assembly to ensure that public schools are “thorough and efficient.” There is no such legally enforceable right to attend a private or religious school and no mandate for the General Assembly to support non-public schools or ensure their quality.

Further, when public money (acquired by force of law in the form of taxes) supports public schools, there is a continuing public benefit. The money isn’t used just to pay salaries. It pays for books in the library and the classroom, computers and white boards, science labs, building maintenance, machinery for vocational programs, and a host of other things that continue to be public assets. The same is not true of money that goes to non-public schools because the public loses the lasting benefit of those dollars. Instead, a private or religious school gets that benefit at the expense of the public.

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This is a correction to the previous article:  Pennsylvania's Voucher Math

(Editor's response: Ahh, but we all know that the teacher's union really runs the show and they aren't governed by the Parents or any Government oversight. They are more interested in the school teachers and their dues than they are in educating our children! Look at the  past and present record of the crap they are piling on our children under the guise of education!!! And NO ONE, NOT the Parents and NOT the Government is able to change this abysmal curriculum!

No, Public (Government) Schools are the WORST option. Home Schooling has consistently proven to be the best with Private and Religious Schools in 2nd place as a whole.  ---Al)

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