Our friends at The Patriot-News here in Harrisburg just posted an online poll that asks the following question:
The state Senate has passed a school voucher bill that would allow parents to move their children to better schools at taxpayer expense. Do you support that?
With all due respect to a fine newspaper, that is just not neutral language.
First of all, Senate Bill 1, the piece of legislation in question, is not just about vouchers. It would also expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, which is no minor issue, with this program having awarded more than 284,000 scholarships worth $335 million during its first decade.
Secondly, by alluding to doing something new and different “at taxpayer expense,” the question implies that vouchers cost taxpayers extra money, but they don’t. The money students would take with them from violent, failing schools—to remind you, an act of violence occurs every 17 minutes in one of our lowest-performing public schools—would get spent no matter what, as it would come out of the state subsidy to their original schools. The question is not whether taxpayers have to fork over the cash or not; it is whether students and their parents are forced to use it at a failing, violent school or take it elsewhere. And, of course, in the long run, school choice saves money.
Thirdly, while I would certainly advance the argument that the schools voucher recipients would choose to attend are indeed better than those where an act of violence occurs every 17 minutes, that is also a non-neutral term. “Different” would be more appropriate.
A better way to ask the question would be something like the following:
The state Senate has passed a “school choice” bill that would allow parents to move their children to different schools and have some taxpayer money follow them from the old school to the new. Do you support that?
Thanks to the Patriot for being part of this important discussion. Let’s make it as factual as we can.