NAACP urges PA lawmakers to oppose new school voucher program

School voucher

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, speaks at a news conference in the Capitol after Gov. Josh Shapiro delivered his budget address for the 2024-25 fiscal year in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Sean Kitchen

June 13, 2024

Pennsylvania Senate Republicans are pushing for the creation of a new school voucher program, sparking the country’s oldest civil rights organization to urge lawmakers to vote against it. 

One of the country’s oldest civil rights organizations is urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to reject Senate Republicans’ push to create a new private school voucher program. 

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday warning that a new voucher program “poses a significant risk to the integrity of the public education system and can potentially deepen educational inequities across the state.”  

Republicans passed Senate Bill 795, the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship Program (PASS), out of the Senate Education Committee earlier this month and are planning to use the new voucher as leverage as the June 30 budget deadline nears. 

SB 795 allows students from Pennsylvania’s lowest performing public schools to receive money from the state to attend private or religious schools. 

There are 382 schools across the commonwealth, and 152 in Philadelphia, that are considered “low-achieving” schools, which are public schools that rank in the lowest 15% of schools in the states based on standardized testing schools.   

Scholarships start at $2,500 for half-day kindergarten students and increase to $10,000 for students attending private or religious high schools. 

The NAACP explained in their letter how these types of voucher programs take funds away from public schools and divert them to privately or religiously-owned institutions. 

“The proposed legislation supporting the PA School Vouchers/Scholarship Fund seeks to redirect taxpayer funds from public schools to private institutions, potentially depriving public schools of crucial financial resources, perpetuating the widening gap of inequality in Pennsylvania public schools, and further depriving marginalized students of their fundamental right to free and appropriate public education.”

The biggest promoters for the PASS voucher program include Pennsylvania’s richest billionaire, Jeffrey Yass, a network of right-wing think tanks and former US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

Pennsylvania House Democrats defeated a push to include the $100 million voucher program in last year’s budget and they are getting ready to do the same in the upcoming budget. 

House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) told education advocates in Harrisburg on Monday that the commonwealth already has enough education options. 

“We can’t afford to divert any of our hard earned public tax dollars to private programs,” McClinton said. 

“Pennsylvania’s already got robust options for every family. But understand, we are not going to be dictated to. We’re not going to let outside interest in groups come and tell us how to do our jobs because we took an oath. And that oath is to uphold the Constitution.”



Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

CATEGORIES: EDUCATION
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