Voucher programs redirect taxpayer dollars from public schools to pay for private educational uses. Repackaged under different names, private school vouchers all function to undermine public education and publicly subsidize private education. Legislative proposals to create voucher plans have been introduced in states across the country, including Pennsylvania.

Private school vouchers can be disguised to look like:

Education Savings Account Vouchers (ESA): ESA vouchers are public funds deposited into a personal account that can be used to pay for a student's private school tuition or other education expenses, such as tutoring, online coursework, transportation, or homeschooling.  These vouchers can be specialized to only affect special education students or perhaps only the children of armed service members

Or….

The traditional private school vouchers: Traditional vouchers pay for all or part of a student's private school tuition with direct payments from a public treasury. States may impose student eligibility requirements, limits on voucher amounts and/or conditions on private schools receiving voucher students.

Pennsylvania’s latest plan

There have been numerous attempts to pass voucher and ESA voucher legislation in Pennsylvania. The latest plan to be introduced is being called “The Excellence in Education for All Act.” The bill is not yet introduced; check back for details soon.

The problem with vouchers

  • While vouchers are described as an option to help certain groups of students, studies of voucher programs across the country have found that students who participate in private school voucher programs fare worse academically than students educated in public schools.
  • Vouchers do nothing to improve the education of all students in the district and leave behind many students, including those with special needs.
  • Voucher plans siphon millions of dollars from school districts, many that are already under-resourced, to benefit private schools.
  • While public schools have strong accountability measures for public meetings, transparency, governance, academic achievement, testing/reporting and financial responsibilities, private schools have almost complete autonomy over how they operate.
  • Vouchers do nothing to improve the education of all students. Creating a separate education system does nothing to address inadequacies or issues with existing public school systems. Subsidizing private schools doesn’t help the 90% of children who attend public schools.

Resources

Check out these resources from the national campaign, Public Funds, Public Schools:

Research about Negative Impacts of Vouchers:

This two-page fact sheet summarizes research about the negative effects of private school vouchers on public schools and their students. It highlights research examining the impact of vouchers on public school funding and student outcomes as well as the discriminatory and segregative effects of voucher programs.

Why Vouchers for Private Virtual Education are Misspent Public Money:

This two-page fact sheet explains that voucher-supported, private virtual schools are a misuse of scarce public resources. The fact sheet highlights research finding private virtual schools do not provide equitable opportunities for all students, harm students’ educational outcomes, and are highly susceptible to accountability failures due to lack of oversight. These issues are compounded when coupled with the documented negative effects of private school vouchers.

The Myth of Cost Savings from Private School Vouchers:

This two-page fact sheet debunks the notion that it costs less to educate students with publicly funded private school vouchers than it does to educate them in traditional public schools. It provides evidence-backed explanations of important realities that make voucher programs expensive, impractical and unsound.

Research

A wide range of research shows that private school voucher programs are an ineffective use of public funds. Check out the research page from the national campaign, Public Funds, Public Schools on these topics:

  • Private school vouchers don't improve student achievement
  • Private school vouchers divert needed funding from public schools
  • Private school voucher programs lack accountability
  • Absence of oversight in private school voucher programs leads to corruption and waste
  • Private school vouchers don't help students with disabilities
  • Private school vouchers don't protect against discrimination
  • Private school vouchers exacerbate segregation
  • Universal private school voucher programs don't work

Six reasons why public dollars should stay with public schools

  1. Public schools are open to all: Public schools do not pick and choose their students. They are open to every child because they are paid for by all taxpayers. They do not discriminate.
  2. Public schools are the cornerstone of their communities: Public schools are the only real option for most families. Public school districts accept and educate all children who come to their doors regardless of income. Private schools can reject applicants based on any number of factors.
  3. Public schools deserve state support: Pennsylvania has a responsibility to ensure every student in every community has equal access to an excellent system of public education. Vouchers divert attention from the needs of all students. The debate over vouchers keeps legislators, parents and public schools from addressing programs and initiatives that can improve public schools.
  4. Public schools are accountable: Public schools are held to strict accountability standards that measure student achievement and academic progress. Private schools do not use the same standardized assessments as public schools, or even other private schools, making comparison and evaluation of academic progress unachievable for parents and the public.
  5. Public schools are transparent: Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act and Right-to-Know laws promote transparency in government and the laws apply to public schools who must make available information regarding finances, operations and academic performance. Citizens can track how their money is being spent and are represented by elected school board members.
  6. Public schools uphold the rights of students with disabilities: Public schools are subject to federal special education law and cannot deny services to students or provide less comprehensive services than a public school. Additionally, public schools have strict guidelines and requirements for special education teachers, whereas private schools can use different hiring standards.