May 16, 2011 9:49AM

Vouchers vs. Tax Credits in Pennsylvania

I blogged a few days ago about the school choice policy deadlock in Pennsylvania—between the House, which favors expanding the existing k‐​12 scholarship‐​donation tax credit program, and the Senate, which favors introducing a new voucher program. Today I have an op‐​ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer elaborating on that blog post.

One thing I didn’t mention in the op‐​ed is that the Protestant George Washington helped pay for the construction of the Catholic church that was burned to the ground in the Bible Riots of 1844. It is telling that the Bible Riots were not over what was preached in St. Augustine’s church, but rather over what was taught in Philly’s public schools. America has seen comparatively little religious conflict surrounding our places of worship, but an endless series of battles over the religious (and other) content of our public schools. The reason is simple: no American has to pay to build another man’s temple, shrine, church, mosque, synagogue, or coffee‐​shop; but we all have to pay for the public schools.

Vouchers extend to private schooling the flaw that has precipitated our endless “public school wars”: compulsion. Under a voucher program, all taxpayers must pay for every type of schooling, including varieties that might violate their deeply held convictions.

As I explain in the op‐​ed, and also in this commentary on the recent ACSTO v. Winn Supreme Court decision, tax credits avoid that compulsion. Participation in them is truly voluntary, and donors get to choose the scholarship organizations that receive their funds. In the case of direct education tax credits, they simply get to keep more of their own money to spend on their own children. Credits are thus a way to secure both freedom of choice for parents and freedom of conscience for taxpayers.