HARRISBURG, PA (Feb. 6, 2024) – Members of the CLEAR Coalition today renewed their strong opposition to a proposal for private school tuition vouchers after Gov. Josh Shapiro called on lawmakers to find consensus on the controversial issue during his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly.
Shapiro’s FY 2024-25 proposed budget increases public school funding by nearly $1.8 billion. This proposal includes the first step in a seven-year funding equity plan proposed by a majority of the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission. It comes about a year after Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ruled that the current school funding system is unconstitutional.
“We absolutely must make these critical investments in the public schools that educate more than 90% of Pennsylvania students, and we can’t allow anything to distract us from doing it,” said PSEA President Aaron Chapin. “I commend the governor’s commitment to improving adequacy in our schools. However, policymakers shouldn’t even think about using taxpayer dollars to fund scholarships for private and religious schools. We have no time for that kind of unnecessary, political distraction.”
“Vouchers take money away from efforts to reduce public school class sizes and staff shortages, hurting the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania school children,” said Gabe Morgan, Executive VP of 32BJ SEIU Pennsylvania. “Our education system is woefully underfunded, with inadequate resources and crumbling infrastructure, particularly in low-income communities. The answer doesn’t lie in draining taxpayer dollars to fund voucher programs, which have been shown in some cases to have catastrophic effects on test scores and educational outcomes. The real solution is in fully and equitably funding our public schools, so that we guarantee a brighter future for our children.”
“Spending taxpayer dollars on private schools not only undercuts our struggling public schools; it dumps public funds into a system with no accountability and no guarantee that it will actually benefit students,” said David Henderson, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 13. “Private schools are not required to do financial audits or disclose staff salaries or administrative costs. There would be no way to know whether theses millions of dollars ever see the inside of a classroom.”
During the summer of 2023, CLEAR Coalition members led the effort to defeat a $100 million tuition voucher proposal that Shapiro had negotiated with Senate Republican leaders.
On Jan. 11, a majority report issued by the Basic Education Funding Commission laid out a blueprint to invest at least an additional $9.5 billion in public schools over the next seven years, including additional resources for basic education funding adequacy, equity, facilities, and other investments.
The CLEAR Coalition represents more than 900,000 Pennsylvanians from seven public employee unions in Pennsylvania: AFSCME Council 13, APSCUF, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Pennsylvania Professional Firefighters Association, PSEA, SEIU and UFCW 1776.