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Republicans hate public education; they hate it a lot, in fact, one of the FIRST things the newly emboldened Republican legislature in Pennsylvania did was put out a bill calling for vouchers, which of course, would drain funding for public schools. Here’s what PA State Senator/Fire Breathing Dragon Of The Progressive Movement Daylin Leach had to say about vouchers.

Recently, there has been a lot of attention paid to Senate Bill 1, which would for the first time create a system of taxpayer-funded vouchers which parents could allegedly use to "choose" what school their child can go to if their current school is inadequate. This is certainly a bold idea. It creates a very expensive, new entitlement program in the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis. Given that, as a member of the Senate Education Committee, I feel it is important to subject this legislation to the scrutiny that any proposal this far-reaching deserves.

SB 1 proposes to give each eligible student an average of $9,000 to use at any other public or private school that is willing to take them. Over the course of the first 3 years of the program, this will cost the state several hundred million dollars. The first obvious question is where all of that money is going to come from. "School-choice" advocates say it will follow the child from the old school to the new.

The problem with that is that the old school will not save $9,000 when the student leaves. Most of the costs of running a public school are fixed. If a child leaves, you still need the same teachers, you still need to heat the building, pay the nurse, hire a security guard, etc. So if more money is taken from the school than is saved by the child leaving, the old school is left worse off than before: poorer, and with fewer resources per child for those left behind. This is particularly important because the bill creates a structure where the overwhelming majority of children won’t actually get to "choose" anything and will instead remain at their current school.

Now, Senator Leach is a funny guy; whenever the right-wingers in the legislature try and pull something wacky, he is there to debunk it and make you laugh while doing it. However, he could not find anything funny about this and neither did I.

He goes on to talk about how private schools are free to set their own rules. However, this piece interested me a lot:

The tuition at some (but certainly not all) religious schools is low enough that the proposed voucher would cover it. But putting aside the constitutionality or wisdom of using taxpayer dollars to fund specific Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or other religious education, this will also not be an option for most low-income children.

Or…queer youth!! Let’s look at what Section 12.4 of Title 22 of the Pennsylvania Code has to say…

Consistent with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (43 P. S. § § 951—963), a student may not be denied access to a free and full public education, nor may a student be subject to disciplinary action on account of race, sex, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.

Surprisingly, if you go to a public K-12 school, LGB (but not the T or I, though positive federal case law exists under sex discrimination) students are protected. However, if one goes to private school, or (potentially) a charter school, or even off to college, LGBTIQ students are SCREWED!!! So, if we get these vouchers, what will end up happening is the imperfect but essential public school system will begin to decline in quality, and LGBTIQ students will have to choose between being protected and getting a good education. Let’s also take a look at something that tends to be big in private/charter schools:

Usually, there will be a uniform policy at these schools, and as you know, that definitely does not bode well for transgender people. You see, I identify as female, and thus, would likely, if forced to wear a uniform, wish to wear a skirt and blouse. But the powers that be will decide that because I have outward plumbing, I am a male, and thus have to wear the boy’s uniform. And in private/charter schools, unlike public schools, you can’t get a waiver for it. Although in some schools, the dress codes have become more androgynous (ie: it would just be a matter of getting a shirt that buttons on the left for an MTF or on the right for an FTM), the forced gendering will still be exacerbated.

Yes, we all keep hearing about declining standards in public schools, and yes, we hear a lot of bad teachers who use the unions to keep their jobs, even when they aren’t qualified. But as I said before, the public schools are imperfect but essential, teachers unions are good, and our students, regardless of their identity, deserve the best. I just wanted to point out who else would be screwed under some of the conservatives’ wackjob ideas

-Jordan Gwendolyn