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Turzai Proposes School Voucher Program for Harrisburg School Families

On Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) released a plan to create a new school voucher program for students in the Harrisburg School District. 

Turzai, who has been a vocal supporter of school choice programs, said the bill would establish a “pilot scholarship program” that would help these students “affordably attend a nearby private or other public school,” while the Harrisburg School District was placed under state control earlier this year. 

“Every child deserves access to quality education, and we have a responsibility to ensure that families who cannot afford that education receive assistance to do it,” Turzai said in the memo. “In some situations, the needs of Pennsylvania children require comprehensive intervention to make sure they receive a proper education.” 

PennLive reports that based on Harrisburg’s current state aid figures, the bill would create “grants of about $7,100 per student” which could be used to pay tuition at any private or public school. 

Gov. Tom Wolf, who vetoed a $100 million proposal aimed at expanding Educational Improvement Tax Credit proposed by Turzai in June, does not support Turzai’s new plan either. A spokesperson for Wolf told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Tuesday that the Governor “opposes voucher programs that divert tax dollars from public schools to private schools” and added that he doesn’t think the program would help all students.

Local officials have chimed in to Turzai’s plan with mixed reactions. 

State Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin) told PennLive that she thinks Turzai is “taking advantage of the Harrisburg School District’s vulnerable position to push his own political agenda.” State Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that he “appreciated Turzai’s interest in helping Harrisburg’s students” and said although he hasn’t been able to review the proposed legislation yet, it is “worthy of further consideration.” 

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, a Democrat, said he is open to the plan on Wednesday, according to PennLive.

“Although there are changes that could make the policy stronger, like putting income limits on families who qualify so we can maximize the impact on those who need the most help, access to quality education is a must,” Papenfuse said in a statement to PennLive. “We need to have a broader discussion about how to fix public education in places like Harrisburg. But we can’t let an entire generation go without access to quality education in the meantime.”

11 Responses

  1. Another GOP effort to sacrifice public education to the goal of destroying unions. Shameful. Put the damn money into public schools and people will not need to flee the public schools. Private schools should be funded with private money, not taxpayer dollars.

  2. Tsk tsk Sam, you didn’t do your homework. According to the PA Department of Education: “The 2019-2020 enacted budget includes $6,742,838,000 in the Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $160,000,000 increase (2.6 percent) over the 2018-2019 appropriation.”
    And speaking of schools, I thought Abe was supposed to be honest? Elite interests are the teachers unions. The kids are being held hostage to greedy unions who don’t care as much about education as they do fattening up their pension funds.

    1. You must be confused about the meaning of elites. Teachers work for a living. You’re thinking of elites like Vaughn Gureghian, who managed to build a couple of chateaus on the Main Line and in Palm Beach worth tens of millions of dollars and donates thousands of dollars to Republicans every cycle thanks to his charter school profiteering. Average teacher salaries in PA are thousands of dollars below the average equivalents for people with the same level of education and experience.

      1. Charter schools are voluntary, and if they weren’t providing a valuable service to the children and their parents as compared to their local public school, no one would use them. And then they would fail. But they are thriving. Why is that? I guess we don’t want parents to have choices when it could hurt the teachers unions.

  3. How about increasing state funding to public schools? Nah, that wouldn’t subsidize the elites who can afford to send their kids to the fancy prep schools that are out of reach for ordinary families even with a private school subsidy.

  4. Turzai has made it his life’s mission to serve the elite interests. But undermining public education with school vouchers, by doing all possible to stop good government idea of commission for redistricting and so many other important initiatives.

  5. Public schools are the backbone of our democracy along with service to our country. There is nothing wrong with private schools but public money should not go to private schools. To send your child to a private school is a choice.

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