On Wednesday, May 24 at 9:00 am, the PA House and Senate Education Committees will be holding a joint public hearing about “education savings accounts” or ESAs.
Education Savings Accounts are Betsy DeVos vouchers on steroids. They are an underhanded attempt to re-brand extremely unpopular school voucher programs that divert taxpayer dollars out of public schools and into private pockets.
States with ESAs (Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee) provide parents with a debit card that has been pre-loaded with taxpayer dollars that that would have otherwise been spent educating a child in a public school. Each state determines the amount of taxpayer dollars that each student receives. It could be a flat amount ($6500 per student in Mississippi) or percentage of the funding that would have been spent educating a child in a public or charter school. The use of the debit card is restricted to educational expenses, which can include online courses, private/religious school tuition, home school supplies, college tuition, and tutors. In most states there is little or no accountability for student academic performance in the ESA programs.
PA lawmakers will likely claim that they are only interested in providing ESAs to students with disabilities and students who attend low-performing schools in order to empower parents and improve the educational choices of these students. However, if ESAs are enacted in Pennsylvania there is little reason to believe that eligibility would remain restricted to a small group of students.
Organizations that promote ESAs, including the American Federation for Children (the group founded by Betsy DeVos) and the American Legislative Exchange (ALEC) , have made clear that their ultimate goal is to privatize America’s public education systems. In Arizona, when the program was founded in 2011, ESAs were initially restricted to students with disabilities and students attending low performing schools. On April 7, 2017 Arizona’s governor signed a law that made every child in an Arizona public school eligible for the program.
We cannot allow lawmakers to open the door to this DeVos vouchers on steroids program. Click HERE to sign a petition telling state lawmakers to OPPOSE ESAs and other school privatization schemes in PA.