STOP lawmakers from bringing a new generation of Betsy DeVos's super vouchers to Pennsylvania
Please contact your lawmakers NOW and tell them to OPPOSE HB 1717 and SB 2, legislation that would bring a new generation of school vouchers called education savings accounts, ESAs, to PA.
HB 1717 and SB 2 propose to create education savings accounts or ESAs, a new and costly government entitlement program for families who choose to educate their children in a private school and who meet specific criteria*. ESAs require school districts to take taxpayer dollars and give them to parents who withdraw their children from public schools.
- ESAs will benefit well-to-do families, who will receive taxpayer dollars to help pay for private/religious school tuition and other educational expenses. The amount of funding a family would receive in an ESA in many cases will not be enough to cover the full tuition for low or modest income families, even at the most inexpensive private school. Instead, ESAs will be a government-sponsored mechanism to provide well-off families with taxpayer-funded pot of money to spend on their children’s private education.
- ESAs enshrine discrimination against Pennsylvania's children, enabling the resegregation of public schools and allowing private schools accepting taxpayer dollars to discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, and disability status. Students with disabilities, if they are permitted to enroll, must give up their rights under Federal law to an appropriate education.
- ESAs are expensive to administer and ripe for waste, fraud, and abuse. Oversight and accountability are limited. Arizona, which has had ESAs for 6 years, has seen money siphoned to make non-educational purchases and other fraud. Once families spend these taxpayer dollars, it is almost impossible to recover them.
- ESAs drain desperately-needed funding from public schools, creating more pressure on property taxes to fill in the hole they will leave.
PA lawmakers claim that they are only interested in providing ESAs to a limited group of students.* However, if ESAs are enacted in Pennsylvania, there is little reason to believe that eligibility would remain restricted to a small group of students. Organizations that promote ESAs, including the American Federation for Children (the group founded by Betsy DeVos) and the American Legislative Exchange (ALEC), have made clear that their ultimate goal is to privatize America’s public education systems. In Arizona ESAs were initially restricted to students with disabilities and students attending low performing schools, but on April 7, 2017 Arizona’s governor signed a law that made every child in an Arizona public school eligible for the program.
It is deeply troubling that instead working to fix PA’s public school funding crisis, many lawmakers are instead trying to advance the agenda of the school privatization lobby, which will create more costs for taxpayers and even deeper deprivation for students in public schools. Please contact your legislators today and urge them to oppose legislation that will bring ESAs to Pennsylvania.
*HB 1717 proposes to provide ESAs to children with disabilities, children living in the catchment of a low-performing school, children of service members either on active duty or killed in the line of duty, or children who received an ESA the previous year. SB 2 proposes to provide ESAs to children in the catchment of a low-performing school or children who received an ESA the previous year.