Late on Friday afternoon, the Senate Education Committee published online that it will be meeting on Tuesday, December 12th at 10:30 am in Room 8E-A in the East Wing of the Harrisburg Capitol to consider Senate Bill 2, the education savings account/Betsy DeVos school voucher legislation.
Education savings accounts (ESAs) are a new and costly government entitlement program that will take taxpayer money out of public schools and give it to parents to spend on private school tuition and other educational expenses. Under SB 2, families whose children attend or have attended a low-performing school will receive an education savings account (ESA) filled with taxpayer money if they withdraw their child from public school. Funding for ESAs would be subtracted from the state funding a student’s school district receives and put into an ESA for that student’s family to spend.
Committee leaders appear to be trying slip this vote on SB 2 under the radar as we approach the holiday season.
As many of you will recall, on October 24th, the Senate Education Committee voted on SB 2. At first, committee leaders reported that SB 2 had passed with a 6-5 vote. However, later in the day and after a public outcry, committee leaders acknowledged that Senator Tommy Tomlinson’s proxy had cast a NO vote that had not been recorded. The vote on SB 2 was then struck and the bill was moved back into the committee.
The senators below are the current members of the Senate Education Committee. If one of these men represents you, please pick up the phone and call him right now. If his office is closed, leave a message so he gets it when he comes back in. If you have a Twitter account, send him a message via that medium as well.
Your message can be short: My name is X and I am a constituent of senator X. I am calling to tell him to vote NO on Senate Bill 2, the education savings account bill.
- Sen Ryan Aument 717-787-4420 Twitter: @ElectAument
- Jim Brewster 717-787-5580 Twitter: @SenatorBrewster
- Sen Pat Brown 717-787-1349 Twitter: n/a
- Senator Andy Dinniman 717-787-5709 Twitter: @Senator Dinniman
- Senator John DiSanto 717-787-6801 Twitter: @SenatorDiSanto
- Senator John Eichelberger 717-787-5490 Twitter: n/a
- Mike Folmer 717-787-5708 Twitter: @SenatorFolmer
- Dan Laughlin (717) 787-8927 Twitter: @SenatorLaughlin
- Sen Daylin Leach 717-787-5544 Twitter: @daylinleach
- Tommy Tomlinson 717-787-5072 @SenTomlinson
- Senator Tony Williams 717-787-5970 Twitter @SenTonyWilliams
Here is a more detailed look at Senate Bill 2 and education savings accounts:
- ESAs will drain desperately-needed funding from public schools and reduce access to educational opportunities for all students in order to fund the private education of a few.
- ESAs enshrine discrimination against Pennsylvania’s children into law. ESAs enable the resegregation of public schools and allow private schools accepting taxpayer dollars to discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, and disability status. Students with disabilities, if they are permitted to enroll in a private school, must give up their rights under Federal law to an appropriate education.
- ESAs are designed to benefit wealthy families, not families with low or modest incomes. The amount of funding a family receives in an ESA in many cases will not be enough to cover the full tuition at a private school.
- ESAs are expensive to administer and financial oversight and accountability are limited, leaving taxpayer dollars ripe for waste, fraud, and abuse. Arizona, which has had ESAs for 6 years, has seen families use ESA funding to make non-educational purchases and other fraud. Once families spend these taxpayer dollars, it is almost impossible to recover them.
- ESAs can impact any school district, not just districts with low performing schools.A student who receives an ESA is eligible for an ESA for the rest of his K-12 school career, regardless of school district he lives in. When students with ESAs move, their new school districts will have state funding reduced by the amount that is deposited into the student’s ESA.
- There is no academic oversight or accountability for private schools that would receive public funding.SB 2 does not require private schools to administer state assessments or require any regulation or oversight over the education that private schools provide students.
It is deeply troubling that instead of focusing on adequately funding public schools, which educate 90% of PA’s students and are open to every child, many lawmakers are instead working to advance the agenda of the school privatization lobby, which will create more costs for taxpayers and even deeper deprivation for students in public schools.