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Final Vouchers Vote Delayed in State Senate

Photo by John Whitehead, Patriot News

By Christina Gongaware, Contributing Writer

As the state Senate pushed back the vote on a bill that would introduce school vouchers to Pennsylvania for alterations, Gov. Tom Corbett and Republicans are stressing parents’ desire to have increased control over their children’s education while educators assert that the bill will only siphon more money from schools in need.

Busloads of students and parents traveled to the Capitol on Tuesday in support of S.B. 1 as both Gov. Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley addressed the crowd.

Corbett also privately spoke with Republican Senators.

“We’re talking about the future of Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “I’m very proud to be able to support the efforts to bring school choice to Pennsylvania; to allow parents to do what they believe is in the best interest of their students.”

The bill would introduce vouchers incrementally, beginning with the lowest-achieving 144 public schools during the first two years. The first three years would also see eligibility capped at 130 percent of the poverty level.

The Appropriations Committee amended the bill to include a middle-class voucher program, which would kick in after four years. This would increase the eligibility to 300 percent above the poverty level.

PA Democrats are calling the delay a political defeat for Governor Corbett.

Public schools would accept transfer students based on a lottery system, while private schools would be free to choose students based on their enrollment criteria.

“Yesterday’s failure to pass school voucher legislation is a huge political defeat for Gov. Corbett, who personally appealed for Senate votes for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers and spent his afternoon on a megaphone rallying support for the legislation among pro-voucher activists,” said Democratic Party Spokesman Mark Nicastre. “It shows how deeply unpopular the governor is as he tries to pass a budget that’s balanced on the backs of Pennsylvania taxpayers.”

The Pennsylvania State Education Association opposes the legislation. Their website states, “PSEA believes using taxpayer dollars to give parents vouchers to send their children to private schools does not benefit students, families or public schools. Pennsylvania’s education funding should be devoted to improving public schools, not subsidizing private schools.”

Furthermore, they declare that the majority of Pennsylvanians oppose such a bill. The group Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers recently conducted a poll of 807 adults in March that found 61 percent against the idea of vouchers.

Two-thirds of those who said they supported vouchers also said that they would be less likely to support them if it cost the state $1 billion, a number on the high end of estimates from politicians.

Despite the projected costs, Corbett still believes that the program is integral for the country.

“Our education system must contend with other nations and so we must embrace innovation, competition, and choice in our education system,” he said in his inaugural address.

Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango) also believes that the bill would offer underprivileged students a better chance for success.

“I am an opponent of failing public schools, not of public education,” White said. “I cannot sit back and watch us fail these kids again.”

5 Responses

  1. Hello, you used to write magnificent articles, but the last several posts have been kinda lackluster… I miss your tremendous writing. Past several posts are just a little out of track!

  2. SB1 will not cause a great number of disadvantaged children to transfer from public schools to non public schools. The non public schools do not have the space or the desire to take on the challenges of children with academic problems!

    The real purpose of the bill is to replace private tuition at non public school with public funds. In year 4 the State will pick up the tuition cost of all qualified families (300% of poverty) with children already attending non public schools. Since there are no students transfering the only change will be who is paying and the status will be quo.

  3. public schools receive much more funding than private schools per student. The private schools students achive more. Devoted parents and students are stuck with no options. Vouchers will give them options. The public schools will no longer have a monopoly on the public funding. They will have to compete on a level playing field for funding. This compention will first make the public schools sick then it will make them better.

  4. There are many facts about this Bill that are not being discussed. First, this bill (as it was presented) allows parents the choice of where to send their student if they are in a continually failing school. This choice could be to a private, on-line, charter, or another PUBLIC school! The idea that everyone will leave the public schools in droves to the private schools suggests we are asking the wrong question. The question should be, “Why would parents be so eager to leave the public school?”. If the answer is failure of the PSEA to educate properly, then why force a child to attend a failing school. We would not continue to work for a company that year after year is failling – we would leave for a better job.

    Second, the Governments responsibility is to provide education for the children of the State. The requirement of the government is not to a union, it is to its citizens. The PSEA is not as concerned with the education of the children as they are in the statement in this article, “does not benefit…public schools”. They are more concerned with protecting their union and employees then the children they teach.

  5. As a public school teacher in Philadelphia, and a parent of public school children, I am strongly against using my money to support private and religious schools. This is not school reform. This is a Republican agenda to destroy unions and public schools. Our public schools are the backbone of our country and our communities. People do not fully understand how vouchers will destroy our schools and our right to a public education. We are held to much higher standards than our counterparts. We have a choice to make – we can either pay for public education now or we will pay dearly in the future. Keep our public schools public, and do not use my tax dollars to fund religious instruction – this is unconstitutional!

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