State Senate Ignores Constitutional Obligations in Passing Private School Vouchers

October 26, 2011
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HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Senate today narrowly passed legislation to implement a new taxpayer-funded private school vouchers scheme. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania suggested that the Senate is ignoring its obligations to the state constitution.

"All of those senators took an oath to uphold the constitution," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "If legislators can ignore the constitution when its prohibition on a vouchers scheme is so clear, none of our rights are safe."

At least three sections of Article III of the commonwealth's declaration of rights indicate that a program like that formed in Senate Bill 1 is prohibited. Those prohibitions include a ban on funding of religious schools, a ban on funding of individuals or religious institutions for educational purposes, and a ban on funding of schools not under the "absolute control" of the commonwealth without a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the General Assembly.

"Our senators are willfully ignoring the state constitution and punting to the courts," Hoover said.

SB 1 now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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