I was very disappointed that on Oct. 24 Sen. Eichelberger voted in the Senate Education Committee to approve Senate Bill 2, legislation that would bring a new generation of school vouchers called education savings accounts, or ESAs, to Pennsylvania.
ESAs are a new and costly government entitlement program for families who live in the attendance area of a low-performing school. They provide families who withdraw their children from public schools with a taxpayer-funded pot of money (approx. $5,700/year) to spend on their children’s private education. The money for each student’s ESA is subtracted from the state funding allocated to the student’s school district. This drains desperately-needed taxpayer dollars from public schools and will put more pressure on property taxes to fill in the budget hole they will leave behind.
ESAs do not guarantee that children in low-performing schools will be able to attend the private school of their choice. In many cases the amount of the ESA is not enough to cover the full cost of private school tuition, so families with low and modest incomes will not be able to use them. Instead, ESAs will benefit well-to-do families who can use taxpayer dollars to supplement their children’s private education.
Also, ESAs are expensive to administer and ripe for waste, fraud, and abuse. Families can spend taxpayer dollars in their accounts on a wide variety of educational expenses. Oversight and accountability are limited.
Senate Bill 2 did not pass out of committee on Oct. 24, but this bill can be called up for a vote at any time. Sen. Eichelberger’s constituents who support public education should give his office a call and tell him to oppose education savings accounts.
AAUW Carlisle Public Policy Committee