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Issue Analysis

Myths About Senate Bill 1

Common myths about Senate Bill 1, the "Opportunity Scholarship and Educational Improvement Tax Credit Act."


What is Senate Bill 1:
Senate Bill 1, or the “Opportunity Scholarship and Educational Improvement Tax Credit Act” would allow students in failing schools the opportunity to seek better educational options in the school of their choice.  SB1 gives parents of students trapped in failing and often times violent schools the opportunity to enroll in a better school that best fits their needs.  During the first year of implementation, SB1 will give low-income students trapped in failing schools the opportunity to enroll in a better school that fits their individual needs.  The voucher program is phased in over 3 years.  By the 3rd year, the bill would allow all low-income children whose family’s income is at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.  Using income data from 2009, more then 547,000 or 32% of PA public school students are eligible to receive a voucher to attend the school of their choice.  A recent amendment to SB1 states that by the 4th year of implementation all middle class children in households with income levels, “not exceeding 3x the Federal poverty line, or $66,150 for a family of 4” will also be eligible for the voucher.  SB1 also increases the wildly successful EITC tax credit by 25 million to a total of 100 million.

 Myth 1:  SB1 will raise my property taxes
 Truth:  SB1 will NOT RAISE Property taxes.  The scholarships are fully financed through current state funding.  The bill does not involve any property taxes.  Instead of local taxes, the scholarships are fully financed through state funding thus leaving property taxes alone.  In fact SB1 will actually help the state balance its budget.  School vouchers cost taxpayers a fraction of what they are currently paying.  In Harrisburg, Taxpayers currently pay $17,675 per student annually.  With SB1 the voucher would be for $8,498.  Therefore if we do the math taxpayers are paying less then HALF the money per student so a child can receive a better education in a school of their choice.  Again:  SB1 will NOT Raise Your Taxes!

Myth 2:  The Bill is Unconstitutional
Truth:  The bill is Constitutional.  The Pennsylvania Constitution reads, “no money raised for the support of public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”  Since the money to fund the vouchers is taken out of the General Fund, it was not raised to support public schools.  The U.S Supreme Court has upheld similar school voucher programs across the nation since the money is not directly given to religious private schools.  The scholarship is given to parents who have the choice whether to send their child to a non-religious or religious school.

Myth 3:  School choice programs do not work
Truth:  School choice programs do work!  It has been proven many times throughout the country that any time a school choice program is put into effect the results are positive.  School choice programs have been successful in Milwaukee, DC, Florida and Cleveland just to name a few. Studies also show that charter schools are generally very successful in improving education.  When you inject competition in the school system all students succeed.

Myth 4:  School choice programs hurt the students left behind in failing schools
Truth:  Studies have shown that school choice programs actually help students who do not take advantage of the voucher program.  As students leave the failing schools behind the children leave a smaller population of students behind, thus creating smaller class sizes.  Also, with school choice programs the failing schools are forced to compete for students thus making them improve; this is free market economics. 

Myth 5:  School choice programs drain funds from public schools
Truth:  Studies show that public schools actually benefit from the existence of school choice programs.

Myth 6: The Bill does not go far enough
Truth:  SB1 would be the first step towards ensuring school choice for All.  SB1 would expand opportunities to needy families that lack educational alternatives.  This is just the first step to allowing all PA families to have the same opportunities regardless of income and zip code.  In a recent amendment to SB1 in the 4th year of implementation all middle income families will be eligible for the voucher.  Without SB1 no one will have choice.  SB1 is by far the biggest school choice bill/program being pushed in the entire country.  If it does not pass the school choice movement will be considerably damaged.  We must walk before we can run.