HARRISBURG- The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee passed legislation today to create a taxpayer-funded voucher program for low-income students to attend private schools, parochial schools, or public schools outside their home district. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is a member of Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers, the coalition opposing Senate Bill 1, and the following can be attributed to Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
"It is impossible for the supporters of SB 1 to get around the constitutional problems of this bill. They are simply wishing away those roadblocks.
"The Pennsylvania Constitution contains three separate provisions that suggest that SB 1 is unconstitutional. One of those provisions says in plain language that the commonwealth shall not fund sectarian schools, as SB 1 would do.
"It was also distressing that one senator suggested today that the courts will sort out the constitutional problems. This implies that senators are not responsible for following their oath of office.
"SB 1 also funnels state funds to private and parochial schools that can and do discriminate against kids for a variety of reasons, including disability, limited English proficiency, and sexual orientation. The committee had the opportunity to pass an amendment to at least address discrimination based on disability but instead voted it down. The private schools have the greatest degree of choice in so-called ‘school choice' by choosing who they will and will not accept.
"Senate Bill 1 is unconstitutional and provides state funding for institutions that discriminate against some kids. We are hopeful that the full Senate or, if necessary, the House will take the wise course of action and vote down this bill."
The memo submitted by the ACLU of Pennsylvania to the Senate Education Committee prior to today's vote is available at: /downloads/memoSEdSB1Feb11.pdf