File photo by Brian Hagberg.

WCSD to Send Letter Opposing PASS Voucher Program

May 22, 2024

RUSSELL, Pa. – While the Warren County School District works to get its budget in order, a new wrinkle to school funding is working through the state legislature.

Senate Bill 795, establishing the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship Program or school vouchers, advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on May 7. If signed into law, the PASS Program would allow parents of students in “low achieving schools” to request a scholarship or voucher to send their child to a better-performing school.

“One of the problems that I personally have with the voucher program is that there really is not a choice in most of the rural areas for school choice,” Board President Paul Mangione said. “So I don’t see why the politicians keep pushing something that most of our students do not have access to in the first place.”

The board voted unanimously during its special meeting Monday night to send a letter of opposition to the program to State Senator Scott Hutchinson, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

“While we appreciate the ongoing discussions surrounding public education funding reform, we firmly believe that considering tuition vouchers before rectifying the constitutional deficiencies in our funding system would be premature and harmful to the majority of Pennsylvania students who rely on public schools,” the letter reads. “The Warren County School District stands firmly against Senate Bill 795 and any similar proposals, as they would only serve as distractions from the urgent task of equitably funding public education in the upcoming state budget.”

Superintendent Gary Weber urged the board to send the letter because he could not foresee a “positive outcome” for the district if SB 795 becomes law.

“Obviously, it would not provide a positive outcome for our public schools,” Weber said.

The letter suggests that SB 795 “duplicates existing efforts” and “undermines the progress” made in finding ways to fund public schools equitably.

“Vouchers are not a viable solution, especially at this critical juncture,” the letter reads. “Let us seize this opportunity to propel our public schools forward by prioritizing funding, redefinition, and innovation to meet the needs of all students in Pennsylvania.”

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