The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), on behalf of the 4,500 elected officials who govern the commonwealth’s public school districts, requests that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives oppose House Bill 1254, which mandates the creation of a voucher program in school districts. Under the bill, any school district that does not “provide full-time in-person instruction or denies a student full-time in-person instruction” would be required to establish a voucher for students to use at any public or nonpublic school.
If the bill were to be passed into law, the voucher program would be implemented in the middle of the current school year with little, if any, options for school districts to absorb the impact of the lost revenue. Moreover, the bill contains no time limit on the applicability of the voucher program, meaning that even if full-time in-person instruction were re-established the mandate to offer vouchers would never end. Additionally, the bill does not even contemplate necessary temporary closure of individual school buildings due to localized COVID-19 outbreaks, or even non-health related issues such as building damage from the recent tropical storm that swept through parts of the state.
As written, the bill would provide any student living in a school district, even students who are not enrolled in a district school or are enrolled in a district school not impacted by school closure, with a voucher if the school district were forced to cancel in-person instruction even for a single day. Yet, the bill contains no requirement that the school receiving a student using a voucher provide full-time in-person instruction.
PSBA and its members remain committed to providing the best possible education to students as the pandemic lingers on, and into the future. The association looks forward to working with the General Assembly to identify solutions which would help school districts better achieve that goal. House Bill 1254 is not the solution.