State’s top auditor says voucher program would devastate Harrisburg School District

  • Rachel McDevitt/StateImpact Pennsylvania

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania’s elected fiscal watchdog is warning a proposal in the state capitol could wreck a midstate school district’s already-precarious finances.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said a bill to create a school voucher program in the Harrisburg School District must be stopped.

The district went under state control over the summer after years of financial and academic issues.

The program would give state and local taxpayer funds to district parents, who could put the money toward private school tuition or the cost of attending another public school district.

DePasquale’s office is performing what he calls a “real-time audit” of Harrisburg School District. Auditors are reviewing problems detailed in a state Department of Education-sponsored audit and issuing recommendations on a rolling basis.

DePasquale said the district’s new state-appointed administration is taking the right steps forward, but this bill would derail that progress.

“This bill would bleed out the Harrisburg School District and its taxpayers and could ultimately lead to the district’s collapse,” DePasquale said.

Administrators said Harrisburg School District is now operating with a $2.5 million budget deficit.

They added, based on the number of students in the district already enrolled in private schools, the bill would immediately cost the district $5 million.

Supporters of the bill have downplayed the financial impact on the district, because students who leave will still count toward how much state funding the district gets.

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