Saturday, May 26, 2018

Pennsylvania’s Zombie School Voucher Bill is Back! And It Wants Your Tax Dollars! by Steven Singer

Originally posted at: https://gadflyonthewallblog.com/2018/05/23/pennsylvanias-zombie-school-voucher-bill-is-back-and-it-wants-your-tax-dollars/

First, there was the horror of a School Voucher Bill.

No one wanted it.


So it was soundly defeated.

Then there was Bride of the Voucher Bill.

And it likewise went down in flames.

This was soon followed by Son of the Voucher Bill.

Return of the Voucher Bill.

School Vouchers from the Black Lagoon.

Plan 9 from Voucher Space.


All ended up in the same place – the legislative graveyard. Oooh! Scary!

Now we have the latest shambling zombie iteration of a voucher bill, called Senate Bill 2.


Which means it will come to a vote by the state Senate and then the state House.

And who do we have to thank for yet another version of legislation billionaires insist we need but voters don’t want?
These guys:

  • Senator John Eichelberger, (R-Blair),
  • Senator Richard Alloway, (R-Franklin)
  • Senator Ryan Aument, (R-Lancaster),
  • Senator Pat Browne, (R-Lehigh),
  • Senator John DiSanto, (R-Dauphin)
  • Senator Mike Folmer, (R-Lebanon)
  • Senator Joe Scarnati, (R-Jefferson)

All Republicans. All bought and paid for by wealthy oligarchs. All convinced that we need to give School Vouchers yet another try in the Keystone state.

And who voted against letting the monster out once again? These guys:

  • Senator James Brewster (D-Allegheny)
  • Senator Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester)
  • Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery)
  • Senator Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks)
  • Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia)

This time the beast has a new look – something called Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).

It’s really just putting another horn on the same old rubber creature.

They say ESAs allow state money to pay for private school tuition of elementary and high school students in struggling public school districts.

Oh great. Another way to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money from the public schools serving 90% of the state’s students.


Will there be any way to make sure the money in these education savings accounts is going to the right place or is being used to help kids learn?

Nope.


Thanks a lot, so-called fiscal conservatives.

And guess who gets to pay the bill? YOU DO!

Watch property taxes increase to make up the shortfall in funding so your local public school can have the privilege of continuing to operate.

I wouldn’t mind more of my taxes going to public schools that are run democratically, are held accountable and teach things in the American mainstream.

But – call me crazy – I don’t want my money going to help indoctrinate the next generation of zealots who deny science, deny history, and deny the moral standards of our society.

When Evangelical Christians pretend the moral high ground by backing a President who pays off porn stars and belittles war heroes and the disabled, you can see why they need to demand government assistance to keep their pews filled.

Will not on my dime, Buster.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Remember that?

It’s the establishment clause from the First Amendment. And if you need to wipe your ass with something, it certainly won’t be the U.S. Constitution!

Separation of church and state. Keep them separate.


It would rob us of hundreds of millions of dollars ($500 million at last estimate) that we need just to keep our public schools where they’re at!


Moreover, school vouchers are nothing new.


Three out of the four most recent studies on voucher programs, which examined the nation’s largest and oldest voucher strategies in Washington DC, Indiana, Ohio and Louisiana, all show student performance getting worse or not improving at all with vouchers.

A 2017 report from the Economic Policy Institute concluded that extensive research on vouchers over the past quarter century demonstrates that gains in student achievement – if present at all – are at best small. Students show no significant improvement in reading or math. In addition, the report showed that the risks outweigh any insignificant gains in test scores.

Another report from June 2017 by the US Dept of ED found that students using a voucher had statistically significant lower performance in math compared to students who did not receive a voucher.



Look. The problem with our public schools is poverty. Pure and simple.

Giving out vouchers to private and parochial schools won’t help. It just hides the problem and makes it worse.


Poverty has a significant impact in student achievement. The average acute poverty rate (% of children living in families with income less than 100% of federal poverty limits) in school districts with more than one low-achieving school was 33.3% – more than double the state average of 16.3%.

Higher poverty means lower standardized test scores.

On average, the proficiency rate for students in the highest poverty schools is 33% less than students in the wealthiest districts. Struggling schools need MOREresources – not less.

Yet, the highest poverty school districts receive more than $2,000 less per student than their wealthy counterparts. This means they are unable to make the investments necessary to overcome the barriers posed by being poor in America.

Diverting state subsidies from these school districts, to ESA vouchers reduce fair access to educational opportunities for these students.

Despite what voucher proponents think, this does not “Save Money.” It does not force struggling districts to do more with less. It forces them to do less – or get more.

Schools don’t budget or spend money on a per student basis. Fixed costs remain the same regardless of how many students are led away by the pied piper of school vouchers.

Costs such as building operations and maintenance, utilities, technology, food service, staff salaries and benefits, transportation including fuel and bus drivers, remain.

Vouchers result in no savings. They produce a greater financial burden for local taxpayers. With less in state funding to provide the same education, that money would have to be raised from other sources – namely, YOU and your local taxes!

I know this is all very tiresome.

It seems like any positive legislation is impossible to get through Harrisburg, but garbage like Senate Bill 2 is ubiquitous.

How many times have we defeated this voucher nonsense?

How many times have taxpayers made it clear they don’t want to fund this nonsense?

But it doesn’t matter. Like a spoiled child, ideologues keep bringing it up again and again in the hopes that this time they’ll wear us down and we’ll let this terrible legislation pass.

Vouchers can be defeated a hundred times. All it takes is one victory and it becomes law and much more difficult to expunge.


Tell them you’re against the latest horror show voucher monstrosity.

And maybe when you’re at the polls remember the names of the tools who keep making you repeat yourself.

Give them an unequivocal answer by voting them out of office.

Only then do we stand a chance of nailing a stake through vouchers’ undead heart – for good.


Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!
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