The call and response echoed through the state capitol rotunda: “What do we want? Choice! When do we want it? Now!” The hundreds of students and supporters spilling into the halls of Harrisburg were there to support Gov. Tom Corbett’s education reform agenda, especially the controversial issue of vouchers. Highlighting the consequences of failing schools, Corbett told the crowd that half of those committed to Pennsylvania prisons read at a 6th to 8th grade level.
SB 1 encompasses three of the four tenets of Corbett’s education reform agenda, including vouchers. It passed the Senate 27 – 22 last month, and Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) says the heat of Tuesday’s rally must be felt in the House of Representatives. “If they make a choice not to support Senate Bill 1, we’ll make a choice on Election Day not to support them,” Williams said in his typical fiery fashion.
Former Governor Ed Rendell has heard the rhetoric coming out of the education reform movement, and he came to the state capitol
Tuesday to remind people of the progress Pennsylvania made through his targeted investments in public schools. “The students in the highest level of achievement on the PSSA test doubled during the eight years that I was governor. But better still, the students in the lowest category on the PSSA test were cut in half,” Rendell says. “These are incredible results that didn’t just happen.”
Regardless of what happens in the school vouchers debate, Rendell says state lawmakers should not take one dollar away from public schools, and rebuild the public education funding that he fought for during his two terms in the governor’s office.