Editorial: School choice should be discussed, not automatic
Picking a school for your child can be a very personal decision.
You weigh the pros and cons. You might look at test scores. You might look at graduation rates. You might be looking for just the right fit for your religious beliefs. Maybe you want a private institution that fits with your social values or your child’s career goals. Maybe you just like the message a certain school sends.
All of those are valid reasons to make a decision. All could prompt you to write a check to the admissions office. That might cost you about $10,000, like Greensburg Central Catholic. It might cost close to $32,000 like high school at Shady Side Academy. But that’s your decision to make.
So why is Pennsylvania okay underwriting that decision?
Since 2001, lawmakers have been bumping up the Education Improvement Tax Credit cap. That’s an amount of money the state forgoes in taxes to underwrite private school scholarships and public school foundations. Last year, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, pushed through approval to up the funds by $35 million. That’s roughly the general operating budget of a not-too-small school district. Highlands, for example, had a budget of about $40 million last year.
Now Turzai and 43 bipartisan co-sponsors want to increase that again, taking the total amount of money in the program from $160 million to a whopping $260 million, allowing thousands of families that make up to $116,216 a year to get a helping hand from the state in subsidizing private or parochial school choices.
The new proposal would also put automatic increases into the program to keep the snowball rolling — and growing.
There are valid arguments for school choice programs. They can provide access to a specific learning experience that may better fit a child or a family. There are equally valid arguments against school choice. It pulls money out of public education when those funds need to be built up, not depleted.
But regardless of which side of the issue you fall, it needs to be debated. A decision as personal and important as how and where our children are educated deserves to be discussed, not set on auto-pilot.