YOUR VIEW: School-voucher system questioned

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We appreciate learning from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton that the Diocese distributes across 11 counties taxpayer-funded vouchers for students attending religious and other private schools.

Even these 11 counties as a group, however, receive only 3.6 percent of voucher dollars while they have 9.7 percent of Pennsylvania school-age children. Voucher programs under-serve Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nearly two thirds of voucher dollars go to Philadelphia and its suburbs plus Allegheny County, including Pittsburgh.

Since voucher programs under-serve NEPA, expanding those programs won’t help many area school children. For example, a $55 million increase supported by some lawmakers in voucher dollars would bring only $2 million to the 11 NEPA counties. Allocating those same dollars to public schools using the state’s new funding fair formula would bring the region $5.3 million – since the region has some of Pennsylvania’s most underfunded public schools and highest property taxes.

We also welcome the Scranton Diocese sharing that its Catholic Schools’ curricula could meet state standards that some other religious schools teaching creationism as science could not meet. Given its high standards, we look forward to the diocese adding its voice to advocacy for curriculum accountability needed at all voucher schools – and for financial accountability for voucher funds as well, since there is no accountability of any kind now.

Stephen Herzenberg

Keystone Research Center