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Voucher bill passes state Senate

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 26, 2011 06:07 PM

After a four-hour debate, the Pennsylvania Senate passed legislation Wednesday approving vouchers and revising the charter school law.

The vote was 27-22. Three Democrats joined 24 Republicans in supporting the bill.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg is reporting, however, that House Speaker Sam Smith said it was unlikely that the House will consider the legislation – a priority of Gov. Corbett’s – any time soon.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, in estimating the bill’s cost, calculated that most of the expense by the second year of the program, 2013-14, will be to provide vouchers to students already attending private and parochial schools – not those students seeking to leave poor-performing public schools.

In the Senate bill, only in the first year, 2012-13, will eligibility be restricted to students currently in the low-performing public schools.

The so-called Fiscal Note assumes that in the second year, 5 percent of eligible students in the low-achieving public schools will get vouchers, while all the students in the attendance boundaries already attending private schools will apply for and receive them. More than $50 million of the $76 million cost that year will go to those students who are already in private schools.

The overall cost will start at $42.6 million and rise to more than $94 million by 2015-16.

The bill does not require private schools receiving vouchers to publish achievement data if they do not have a public website.

The debate concluded with an impassioned plea from a Philadelphia Democrat, Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, who co-sponsored the legislation with Republican Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, chair of the Senate Education Committee.

He said that no parent or child should be trapped in bad schools. “The only reason that parents take their children out of these schools is because they don’t work,” he said. “We’re tired of waiting.”

Others, including his fellow Philadelphia Democrat Vincent Hughes, argued that the vouchers would take money away from public schools that are already underfunded and overwhelmed. Corbett slashed basic education aid this year, contributing to a more than $600 million shortfall in Philadelphia. The District eliminated 3,800 jobs overall, cutting programs and services. Layoff notices have gone to hundreds of blue-collar employees; some 400 central office workers were laid off along with more than a thousand teachers, although many teachers were called back.

“We cannot escape the budget reality that exists in this conversation,” Hughes said.

The vote came about an hour after School District of Philadelphia Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch told the School Reform Commission that even more cuts will be necessary, including reductions to individual school budgets, professional development for teachers, and athletics, to help close the remaining budget hole.

The charter revisions would make it easier for charters to expand. Among other things, the bill creates a standard application for charters and increases the length of the original charter from three years to five and lengthens the time for renewal from five years to ten. 

The legislation also included substantial increases in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, which provides tax breaks to businesses that give private school scholarships. Over three years, the cost of that program will grow by $56 million.

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Comments (11)

Submitted by tom-104 on October 26, 2011 9:39 pm

This article states:
"The Senate Appropriations Committee, in estimating the bill’s cost, calculated that most of the expense by the second year of the program, 2013-14, will be to provide vouchers to students already attending private and parochial schools – not those students seeking to leave poor-performing public schools."

This is another attack on public education. As the article says, the private schools will not be required to provide the same oversight that public schools do by law. As to parochial schools, the law for the first time allows taxpayer money to be directly used for religious instruction, a violation of separation of church and state.

For background on the political forces behind this voucher bill see this article on Talk2Action:

"Controversial School Voucher Bill Passed in Education Committee, Headed for Pennsylvania Senate Vote" @

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2011 10:56 pm

Dangerous stuff--all designed to make the rich richer and the poor, hopelessly poor. It ain't about poor kids getting help. It's about separating the poor from the better off and keeping the poor, poor. VERY few poor children will receive any real help and we all know it. Hopefully, the House of Rep. will turn it down again. Hardy Williams is becoming as much of a carpetbagger and Evans, ripping off the poor while screaming about racism the whole time. Better not be a God, guys or you're all cooked.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 6:47 pm

It is troubling that parents of poor minority students are caught up in the hype of “Better.” Everyone wants something ~Better~, but what are you willing to do when you get to this place called “Better?” Will you make sure your children show up on time? Attend everyday? Will your sons pull their pants up and be respectful of themselves and others? Will your daughters drop the attitude and quickness to fight at the door? Will they study every night for an hour or more depending on the grade level? In high school several hours of study is required each night if a student is going to be successful. Will you, the parent, get off the phone, make your child a priority, make sure that your children adhere to rules and policies that will make a school safe place for all? Or, will you fight, yell, scream, and curse at school staff members in an attempt to change the rules because it’s easier than enforcing guidelines and discipline to yourself and your children. It’s like moving into a house that needs repair, but you neglect to pick up a hammer or nail, but wish for a better place. Or, living in a community that is strewn with debris where you never pick up a broom, but wishing you lived some place better. When you finally get to the street called "Better," will you continue to live as you had in the past—never doing anything to keep up it or make it better. Still looking for a place deemed better.

This voucher business is just another way to keep poor people down and the “powers that be” can say, “We gave them every opportunity by allowing them to get to better place,” as they line their pockets with gold.

There are thousands of young people who graduate from neighborhood schools and become successful doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, carpenters, electrician, business owners, etc. It’s not always about where you go to school. It’s what you do with yourself and the resources available to you in order to reach the place we call “Better.”
Before you sign up for a voucher, ask yourself the question, “Am I willing to do what is required to help my child reach goals that will make him/her academically better?”

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 6:56 pm

WOW--you are all over the place, dude !! The only part that makes sense is that vouchers are a scam to drain resources from the poor to give to the rich thus making the poor, hopelessly poor. All business people know exactly what the agenda is, of course but the poor keep looking for help but Charters and Vouchers ain't it, my friends. Rather they are tracer shots in the night ending any hopes your kids will ever have--ever. Their whole design is a trendy new way to skim money designed for the poor to give to the rich--nothing less and we all know it though some keep grasping at straws. It's all a mean spirited, calculated mirage.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 7:57 pm

Agreed! It's all over the place, but just had to get some things off my chest. Maybe not the best forum for talking about the kind of parent who jumps through hoops to get the best, but then continue with the same behaviors that keeps them down. They want the best school, but after they get in the child is late every day, doesn’t work hard, etc.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 9:50 pm

As the parent of two children who attend a philadelphia charter school, I disagree that charters are part of the problem. Some charters are bad and some are excellent. The charter my children attend is excellent and I applied because it gives my children a better education than my district run school could or would. I do, however, agree that vouchers are an attack on public education and that they are another way for the rich to line thier pockets. It is a shame that the underserved and undereducated are served this as thier childrens salvation. In the end it will only hurt the poor. It is time for parents to get involved in the politics of education and demand better for our children. It is the only way to save our broken system.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 9:48 pm

With all due respect--follow the money and watch how wonderful that charter is when they have to show their cards as in scores for ALL to see. Can you say, IMHOTEP ???/ Trust me, please, your charter is a for profit business and they will do ANYTHING they have to do to make money----I hope you are right but I strongly suggest you may very well be wrong but time will tell. That school would not exist without money making strategies between the politicians who placed them and the provider who is making more than Ackerman did. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about. By the way, I am NOT saying that no kid learns in any Charter School but watch and PLEASE keep both eyes open over time if they have to be transparent. Don't you find it curious that the politicians want Charters to NOT have to be transparent. That alone should tell you something BIG.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 10:24 pm

I agree with you about lack of transparency being a problem with charters. Charters are not always a perfect solution, but for my children it was our best option. Money and politics seem to be what fuels the education sytem in our country instead of concern for our youth, thier futures and their education. That is why I am always watching, no matter if it is a district run school or a charter. It is past time for parents to be savy consumers of education for thier children, and to get involved in the decision making processes. Vote, protest, educate other parents and advocate not only for your child, but the children that are stuck in this failing system. It is time for real change, not more broken promises!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 10:33 pm

The lack of transparency is the elephant in the room, not some pesky little thing. The rich are NOT having problems in schools...because they demand their rights and the pols listen because they better or else they're gone. The Middle Class and the Poor are the ones whose kids are having school troubles and mostly in inner cities and very rural areas---THE POLS WANT it that way--It's all by design and it's all connected to make the poor, hopelessly poor and the middle class poor and heading south. Destroying unions is also a part of the same ilk along with charters and vouchers. They all came in on the same horse and it's called Money for the rich that WAS designed for the poor. It's yet another way to separate people economically and it's no accident.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2011 9:03 pm

That's because of 400 years of being abused and dissed at every turn. It's called the poverty cycle and it won't end until people of color have ample numbers so politicians pay attention to them. That is NO EXCUSE though for scum bags like Evans, Williams, Gamble et al for ripping off the people of color while playing the race card to cover their tracks. Those dudes better hope there's no God. There, I just ranted too. I, too, am frustrated by the behavior of parents and their kids in our schools. It ain't easy teaching kids who are calling you names much of the time. I agree but........

Submitted by Mr a borrego (not verified) on September 12, 2012 1:44 pm

this is a good subject to debate about

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