OPINION: Only Agenda Behind School Choice Is Helping Neediest Kids

From The Delaware County Times in Pennsylvania:

In the article, “Haverford school officials slam voucher plan” in the March 16 Daily Times, multiple unfortunate and unfounded comments were made by Haverford public school officials, targeting parochial schools, which are largely Catholic.

Senate Bill 1 allows low-income students in struggling public schools to transfer to nonresident public schools and non-public schools, not just parochial schools.

SB 1 has varying elements in three consecutive years. The first year allows low-income students who “attended a persistently lowest achieving (aka “struggling”) school during the 2010-2011 school year … (and) will reside within the attendance boundary of a persistently lowest achieving school during the 2011-2012 school year” to be eligible for an Opportunity Scholarship to attend a “nonresident public school or a participating nonpublic school.” A “low-income student” is defined as a school-age child with a household income that does not exceed 1.3 times the federal poverty line (about $28,600).

During the 2012-2013 school year, the scholarship program shall be available to all Pennsylvania residents who are low-income children who attended a non-public school in the 2010-11 school year and will reside within the attendance boundary of a struggling school during the 2012-13 school year.

In the third year, the “struggling school” criterion is removed, but low-income criterion remains. SB 1 states “during the 2013-2014 school year and each school year thereafter, the opportunity scholarship program shall be available to all low-income children residing in this commonwealth.”

There are 144 struggling public schools and 91 are in Philadelphia. Haverford School District is not one.

While the superintendent and board members should be proud that Haverford is not a struggling district, at least one board member opposing SB 1 has chosen to single out parochial schools as part of his rationale. Lawrence Feinberg, a school board member in Haverford, who has a B.S. from private Catholic-affiliated LaSalle University and who attended Villanova University for graduate coursework, has stated: “This is basically a bill I’ve come to see as a taxpayer bailout for parochial schools.”

Mr. Feinberg’s connotation is parochial schools need to be bailed out. Mr. Feinberg suggests this bill intends to bail out parochial schools. Mr. Feinberg’s statement is unsubstantiated to support his misperception of the bill’s legislative intent.