Thursday, February 3, 2011

PA League of Women Voters Position on Vouchers (2003)

The LWV is firmly opposed to tuition vouchers for nonpublic schools. Our opposition is based on several beliefs and concerns.

1) We believe that Article III of the state Constitution clearly forbids use of public education funds for the support of religious schools. Furthermore, we believe such support violates Article 1 of our US Constitution, a treasured principle, often referred to as “separation of Church and State. The League believes that taxpayers must not be forced to support schools which are indoctrinating beliefs contrary to, and even anti-ethical to their own beliefs.

2) We feel that vouchers may encourage the separation of our society into ethnic and religious groups, which is the antithesis of the principles on which are country was founded.

3) Nonpublic schools are rightly called independent schools and in any of the voucher proposals thus far there is no process nor requirement for accountability either fiscal or financial, and no requirement for disclosure of admission policies, dismissal policies or rejection policies from the nonpublic schools which would receive taxpayer funds.
The sad unfairness of all the voucher plans to date is that they fail to address the real problem of poorly achieving school districts and that is their poverty. The state’s neglect extends across the state, inadequately funding the many poor rural, urban and suburban schools districts across the state. In a country where inequities abound, Pennsylvania has one of the greatest disparities between rich and poor districts reaching differences of more than $10,000 per pupil!

Whatever the final form of a voucher proposal, we do know that School Choice always means the school gets to choose! No voucher plan ever guarantees admission to any non-public school. Nor does it prevent the disenrollment of a child if the school decides that the child is not satisfactory in some way. Proponents of vouchers for non-public schools say that they want to let parents decide how their money is spent to educate their children. Of course, parents have always had that right .It is whether they have the right to take the money of other taxpayers and spend it in non-public settings that is the question! But more important, there is an obligation of the state to educate all of its children and not just those with a caregiver able, alert and sophisticated enough to seek out special opportunities. Those children are already advantaged. Helping a fortunate few at the neglect of the most needy is not only unjust but also poor public policy.

Do children who attend private and parochial school do better academically? This question is among the most difficult to answer because private and parochial schools are not required to divulge this information.

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