To the editors:
The latest school reform movement gaining momentum in Harrisburg goes by the name of Senate Bill 1, which would provide "opportunity scholarships" to low-income students attending the lowest-performing schools in the state. This would allow them to leave their neighborhood school and apply a voucher to another institution of their choice.
No one argues that trapping low-income students in failing schools is acceptable. However, throwing money at the problem is not the reform our city schools need.
More than 50,000 children would be eligible for vouchers based on income level and school performance. If vouchers became available next year, where would they go? No state public district has the capacity to accommodate such an influx. Private and parochial schools have admissions criteria and costs that are often higher than the roughly $8,000 afforded by the voucher bill.
Even if a student's family could find a school with space that fits the price tag, no schools would be forced to admit voucher students. Schools could skim off the most desirable students, leaving others to languish in the same failing schools they tried to leave.
Neighborhood schools would be drained of public funding from voucher students who were able to exit. This is especially alarming for special education students, who are most at risk of being left behind by selective private and parochial schools.
By passing a state voucher bill, legislators can claim to support school reform and the success of all our children. But true school reform must help all students, not just a few lucky enough to cash in.
The writer serves on the support team at a District high school.