Vouchers (SB 1) and the Law see the following link for a 2 page analysis by the Education law Center:
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Live Chat Friday, April 22nd, 1-2 pm. Check here for responses to questions about Senate Bill 1.
By way of background, I have been a school board member in Haverford Township since 1999. A long time ago, I attended grade school at the Thomas Creighton Elementary School in Philadelphia (now on the SB1 list of 144 failing schools) and graduated from Central High School in Philly.
For the past several years I have served as Chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council, which advocates for public education on behalf of the 74,000 public school students in Delaware County's 15 school districts, and have also been appointed to a fourth 2 year term as a member of the National School Boards Association's Federal Relations Network, which advocates for public education at the federal level.
In 2006 I founded and now co-chair the Keystone State Education Coalition, a grass roots education advocacy group of several hundred school board members from school districts throughout Pennsylvania. In 2010 I was elected to represent the 27 suburban school districts of Delaware and Chester Counties on the PA School Boards Association's Board of Directors.
I provided testimony on school choice and SB1 before the PA Senate Education Committee last October and before the House Democratic Policy Committee this past February in Philadelphia. I will be taking questions focusing on the impact of SB1 on suburban school districts.
Beth Olanoff, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools (PLUS) will be taking questions focused on the impact of SB1 on urban school districts.
Good morning, Larry. I am Beth Olanoff, and I will be answering questions about the impact of SB 1 on urban schools. Prior to my position with PLUS, I was the Director of the Office of Policy for the PA Department of Education under Governor Ed Rendell. Larry and I worked together when I was with Good Schools Pennsylvania which was a non profit organization working to raise public support for adequate and equitable funding for education in Pennsylvania.
Prior to my work in education, I practiced law for almost 20 years in Philadelphia. So I am almost as old as Joe Bard who answered questions yesterday about rural schools.
I have a few questions regarding who will benefit from vouchers.
1. How much will the vouchers be for, and how does that compare to typical private school tuition rates?
2. If a child is already in private school, can the parents still get vouchers? If so, aren't these just private school subsidies?
Hi Lauren -
1. The amount of the voucher will depend upon the state subsidy that is paid to the school district that they student would be leaving or that the student lives in if they are not already attending public school. I have heard a figure of about $7000 quoted.
I believe that tuition at private schools like Shipley, Friends Central, etc. is in the mid 20's. The Westtown School, where Senator Williams was fortunate enough to go, charges $43,000 per year for a boarding student to attend.
The amount of the vouchers makes them a feasible means of attending parochial schools - their tuition is in that ballpark. We expect to see very few students attending private schools using an SB1 voucher.
2. With the amendment that was added when SB1 came out of the Senate Appropriations Committee SB1 will ultimately pay private/parochial school tuition for any student whose family income is less than around 64,000, regardless of whether the student has ever set foot in a public school and regardless of whether they live in the best performing school districts in the state.
You are correct that these are private/parochial school subsidies.
Thank you for this opportunity. Needless to say, a significant volume of information is available on SB1 from all sides of the issue. As an advocate, teacher, and school board member in opposition to SB1, one item I've not heard or read much about lately is the Constitutional issue. Under the Pennsylvania State Constitution, “No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.” I've not witnessed much more discussion about that. How are propents of SB1 planning on working around that?
I agree with Larry's response to your question. In addition, I wanted to emphasize that because the state subsidy varies from to school district to school district (based upon local real estate values, local tax effort, number of low income children etc) the voucher amount per student would also vary depending on the child's school district of residence.
So for example, a voucher for a child from Philadelphia (which has a relatively high per student state amount) would be more than the voucher for a child from Central Bucks school district even if the two children attended the same private school.
Hi David -
Under SB1 no private or parochial school is required to accept any student. The private schools, NOT the parents, get to choose.
Under SB1 no private or parochial school is required to retain any student that they might have initially accepted.
Public schools are required by law to admit, and expected to educate any student who shows up, regardless of their race, religion, income status, disability status, English language status, behavioral issues, etc.
Hi, Dr. Maritz:
The constitutional issue is an interesting one. SB 1 was based on a statute which was upheld by the US Supreme Court (I will look up the citation in a minute) which held that since the state gave the voucher to the parents and the parents chose the sectarian school, the payment by the state did not violate the US Constitution.
Obviously, you have referenced a provision of the PA constitution which appears to be more narrow than the federal separation of church and state. This one will just have to go to the PA Supreme Court for resolution.
I will find the US Supreme court citation and post before we are done today at 2.
Here's more info on the constitutionality issues:
You are correct that the case is Zelman. But even the "specific circumstance" doesn't necessarily pass muster under PA constitutional provisions.
You mentioned you are on your school board. first of all, thanks for your service to your community. Secondly, perhaps your board would consider a resolution in opposition to SB 1.