Some are noting a lack of detail in the governor’s education reform speech, but the state’s largest teachers union doesn’t need specifics to oppose the advent of school vouchers in Pennsylvania. “The bottom line for us on any voucher program is that they don’t work, they don’t raise student achievement,” says Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) spokesman Wythe Keever. He says the state should be focusing on initiatives that do work, such as tutoring, full-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) adds that vouchers are unaffordable at a time when public education funding has already been cut by $900-million. “Across all demographic groups, the public is just not interested in spending tax dollars to send children to private schools,” says PSBA executive director Tom Gentzel. He points to the latest survey – conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research – that found 65% of Pennsylvanians either strongly or somewhat oppose vouchers.
But, Gentzel does tell us there are parts of the governor’s agenda that are worth discussing. He says charter school accountability measures are long overdue. Likewise, the PSEA isn’t deriding the entire plan. “PSEA agrees with the governor that teacher evaluations need to be improved, and we support the use of multiple objective measures of performance,” says the PSEA’s Wythe Keever, who’s interested in the results of the new teacher evaluation pilot program.
Governor Corbett’s agenda appears to have some bicameral support in the General Assembly, based on the high-ranking cast of Republican lawmakers who stood by his side at the Lincoln Charter School in York. “What the governor is putting on the table are very tangible proposals that allow us to move Pennsylvania into the forefront of reform,” says House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). “Our economy in the 21st century is going to look for excellence,” says Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne (R-Northampton). “Through the reforms the governor is advocating for, we will be pursuing excellence here in Pennsylvania.” Governor Corbett wants lawmakers to act in the next few months, so that the reforms he outlined on Tuesday can be in place for the start of the 2012-2013 school year.