Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) are waging a fear campaign against education savings accounts (ESAs). Both have complained ESAs “don’t help students learn” and “don't hold private schools accountable,” while also claiming thousands of children will flee failing schools if given the chance. If the alternative education options provided by an ESA are as they say, why should ESA opponents be worried?
These arguments have no merit. The nearly 400 failing public schools are given little accountability. ESAs, on the other hand, are the ultimate test of accountability. Schools and other education providers must convince parents that their children are learning or parents will take their education dollars elsewhere.
The PSEA is also spreading lies about the taxpayer impact of ESAs. PSEA President Dolores McCracken claims ESAs “could cut more than $500 million from school districts that need state funding the most.” Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott concurs, “This proposal would cost the commonwealth and school districts hundreds of millions of dollars, which would ultimately be passed onto taxpayers.”
For the program to cost more than $500 million, nearly 100,000 students would have to flee their local school. That would be a huge indictment of schools under the influence of PSEA.
Secondly, ESA funding represents around one-third of what public schools spend per student. Since this money is only transferred when children leave public schools, this will actually save taxpayers money. If we can provide a quality education for $5,700 rather than the current statewide average of $16,533, that’s a win for students and taxpayers.
Governor Wolf and the PSEA know many parents will take their children out of these failing schools if given the chance. Rather than do what is best for these children and offer an escape route, Wolf and the PSEA want to keep them trapped. How many more kids must these schools fail before politicians have the courage to put families before special interests?