Pa. teachers have it wrong: Turzai’s Harrisburg vouchers bill will help kids | Opinion

November 29, 2019 6:30 am

By Marc LeBlond

A Nov. 17 Capital-Star op-ed attacking House Speaker Mike Turzai’s emergency scholarship bill for Harrisburg students seemed to come from an alternate dimension.

The teachers’ union president and other authors who attacked HB 1800 imagine that Harrisburg School District is right on the cusp of becoming an educational paradise.

Things are a little bit different in this dimension. For generations, Harrisburg students have been subject to a school district that is unaccountable to parents, to basic standards of governancecivility, and academics, and to the students themselves.

Simply pumping more money into that system and waiting won’t fix it.

The authors fear that Turzai’s bill will allow students to “fall through the cracks” because district bureaucrats aren’t controlling children’s education. But these students have already fallen into the pit created for them by those very bureaucrats.

Contrary to the authors’ claims, programs like HB 1800 are demonstrably better for students’ futures—and according to 26 out of 26 studies, parents report high satisfaction with these outcomes.

And the supposed “harm” of allowing students to switch schools is negligible: only half of the per-pupil funding the school district gets from the state actually follows the students when they transfer.

That leaves more money per child in a district that already spends an astronomical $20,348 per pupil, and less crowded classrooms to boot.

The authors want to “do the right thing for Harrisburg schools.” But shouldn’t we do the right thing for Harrisburg kids? Recent history proves those two aren’t one in the same.

Marc LeBlond is a senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market favoring think-tank in Harrisburg.

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