People For the American Way Foundation Tuesday said it will ask a Pennsylvania court to invalidate the state’s first voucher plan, which was adopted in March by the Southeast Delco School Board. In a motion to be filed late Tuesday afternoon before the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, PFAWF and its co-counsel, who represent parents and citizens in the case, argue that the school board has no authority under the state’s Public School Code to redirect money from the public schools into private and religious schools. “The Southeast Delco School Board’s plan is a renegade action that exceeds the board’s legal authority, violates the state and federal Constitutions, and picks the taxpayers’ pockets,” said PFAW Foundation President Carole Shields. “The School Board’s job is to make Southeast Delco schools the best they can be, not to divert the public’s money, harm the public schools and unconstitutionally promote religion.” This corner of Delaware County, near Philadelphia, is the latest battleground in a growing legal and political war that pits voucher proponents against advocates for stronger public schools. Court battles are currently underway in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Maine and Vermont. Voucher schemes much like the Southeast Delco plan have been challenged legally and have been defeated or withdrawn in Lincoln Park, New Jersey and Lake Travis, Texas. Today’s motion will be filed by People For the American Way Foundation, along with the American Jewish Congress, Pennsylvania Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc., Pennsylvania State Education Association, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Pennsylvania, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Plaintiffs in the case are eight parents and citizens from the district who want to see their public schools improved and object to tax dollars being spent to advance religion. The Southeast Delco voucher plan is expected to cost at least $1.2 million during the next school year — money that could be used to repair leaky roofs, eliminate textbook shortages, fix broken plumbing or even purchase the most fundamental supplies that some of the district’s schools lack, such as toilet paper, pencils, paper for the copy machine and light bulbs. “With this voucher plan, the Southeast Delco School Board has tried to bypass the General Assembly and the state’s Public School Code and take the law into its own hands, all at the expense of the public schools for which the board is responsible,” said Judith E. Schaeffer, Deputy Legal Director of People For the American Way Foundation.
PFAWF calls upon Pennsylvania Court to invalidate state voucher plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 28, 1998
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