Top five myths about Senate Bill 1
MYTH 1: SB 1 ends up becoming an expensive entitlement and helps only poor inner-city children. FACT: SB 1 isn't an entitlement. It's redirection of a relatively small portion of already budgeted state funds from the control of the school to the control of the parents. The federal and local portions remain with the school. Channeling a small portion
MYTH 1: SB 1 ends up becoming an expensive entitlement and helps only poor inner-city children.
FACT: SB 1 isn't an entitlement. It's redirection of a relatively small portion of already budgeted state funds from the control of the school to the control of the parents. The federal and local portions remain with the school. Channeling a small portion of what was a staggering $26 billion in 2009 to provide a quality education to our children is far more cost-effective than the future costs of incarceration, social services and lost revenue. Uneducated children become costly adults.
SB 1 will help families in every part of the state, urban, suburban and rural. Middle- and working-class families can receive assistance from the tax-credit component of SB 1.
MYTH 2: Opportunity Scholarships end up taking public money away from public schools.
FACT: Taxpayers support the education of children, not any one system. This money isn't the property of the public-school system but of the child. School choice puts children's interests ahead of "the system's." Public schools would still get more than $25 billion, 99.5 percent of all education funding, and children making school choices would get $125 million, 0.5 percent.
MYTH 3: Parochial and private schools don't have to be accountable to the public.
FACT: While public schools must adhere to many laws, this has failed to make them answerable to the public. Charter, private and parochial schools are subject to the highest level of accountability. If they fail to perform, the marketplace will ultimately force them to close. While many private schools choose not to participate in the Pennsylvania School System of Assessment because it isn't an achievement test, nor does it assess aptitude, they frequently use assessments such as the Stanford Achievement Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills and Metropolitan Achievement Test, which are more academically rigorous than the PSSA.
MYTH 4: Public schools must accept every student; private and parochial schools do not.
FACT: Public schools generally accept only those students who live in their districts. Wealthy suburban areas, for example, don't accept poor minority students from the inner city.
Even within public districts, geographic lines are drawn. There are magnet and special-admission schools that take only select students who meet certain criteria. In Philadelphia, schools such as Central and Girls High, Masterman and the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts are public schools with highly selective admission. And public schools have a mechanism called an Individual Education Plan that lets children escape schools that don't meet their needs. And private schools already serve special-education students. In fact, public schools often turn to private ones to serve children with severe disabilities and behavior problems. The state has 30 approved private schools that serve more than 4,000 students with severe disabilities.
MYTH 5: SB 1 is unconstitutional.
FACT: The state Constitution states: "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." General-fund revenue doesn't meet this definition as it's not raised for the purpose of funding public education. School-district property taxes are raised for this purpose, and that is why SB 1 involves only state funding for private schools, not local tax revenue.
Other established, government-funded voucher programs are constitutional. Social Security and Medicaid are examples of voucher programs through which recipients can use taxpayer money at the grocery store or hospital of their choice. Taxpayer money already flows to private and religious colleges through various loans and grants to students. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, declared the Cleveland voucher program constitutional because it gave money to parents of elementary- and secondary-school children rather than to specific institutions. Those who oppose the bill on constitutional grounds should allow it to pass and let the courts decide.
- Anthony H. Williams