Harrisburg, Pa. − December 13, 2023 − Senator Lindsey M. Williams, Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, voted against the 2023-24 School Code today because it continues to take tax dollars away from public education and instead funnels that money to schools that actively discriminate against our children and families. After the vote, Senator Williams released the following statement:
“Since the inception of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program (OSTC) in 2001, Pennsylvania has given over $2 billion in tax breaks to corporations and its wealthiest citizens in exchange for scholarships to private and religious schools. Virtually nothing is known about how, or if, students have benefitted from these programs because we do not collect sufficient data to evaluate them.
What we do know is that the private and religious schools who receive this funding actively discriminate against parents and students. In early December, Education Voters of Pennsylvania released a report examining 25% of the private schools that participate in the OSTC program. Every single school studied had a clear statement or policy declaring that the school can and will discriminate against students and parents.
Here are some lowlights from that report:
- Nearly 1 in 5 schools have explicit statements discriminating against LGBTQ students and their families.
- Nearly half of the schools engage in some type of discrimination based on religion.
- More than 80% of schools have policies that allow them to refuse to admit students if they are not the “right fit” with the school.
- More than 50% of schools have policies that allow them to discriminate against students based on disability or how they’re currently doing in school.
Unlike public schools that must educate every resident student who comes through their doors, these private and religious schools do not have to admit students with disabilities or follow their IEPs, nor are they required to educate students who struggle academically for whatever reason. That means that the very students that proponents claim the OSTC voucher program was created to assist – students that attend schools with low standardized test scores – can and are turned away because of their low test scores.
It has been nearly a year since the Commonwealth Court declared our system of funding public education unconstitutional. Since then, I’ve opposed legislation that upholds that unconstitutional system or makes it even worse many times. But long before that decision, I have stood up every year in opposition to the school code BECAUSE of EITC and OSTC. As in past years, this year’s school code contains bills that are a huge priority to me—including bills that I’ve sponsored. But I stand in strong opposition to any program – EITC, OSTC, or any future voucher programs like PASS or Lifeline Scholarships – that discriminate against kids and siphon your tax dollars into the pockets of billionaires who seek to defund, destabilize, and destroy public education.”