Vouchers, other bad policies turned away
Published January 2012 Voice
Even though Gov. Tom Corbett made an education “reform” package his top legislative priority, the House of Representatives admitted it didn’t have the votes to pass the governor’s tuition voucher plan and then defeated an unaccountable charter school expansion proposal by a vote of 105-90.
Bills to base teacher evaluations on standardized test scores and allow economic furloughs of school employees didn’t even come up for votes.
The General Assembly will not return until Jan. 24.
“These are bad policies for our profession, for our schools, and for the students who learn there,” PSEA President Michael J. Crossey said. “These are great victories. It shows that all of the hard work PSEA members did to defeat them paid off. PSEA members spoke loud and clear – and legislators listened.”
Throughout the summer and fall, the governor’s initiatives met with dramatic opposition from PSEA members and other public education advocates. The public also never warmed to them, with opinion polls showing that nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians oppose the governor’s tuition voucher program, and that 70 percent oppose his $860 million in public school funding cuts.
Even though the state Senate voted in October to approve Senate Bill 1, which includes a tuition voucher plan, the House announced in mid-December that it was unable to muster the votes to pass it. House members attempted to design alternative approaches, but none of those ideas was able to garner enough support to even attempt a vote.
“Tuition voucher programs drain even more money from our public schools,” Crossey said. “Their only track record is one of failure, and I think many legislators now recognize that vouchers are a bad choice for Pennsylvania.”
The House did call up a bill to expand charter schools. Even after a last-ditch effort to pass it, House members voted to defeat it by a vote of 105-90, chalking up another dramatic loss for the governor’s initiatives.
The General Assembly also failed to pass legislation to rewrite the teacher evaluation system, a plan that would base 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on standardized test scores. House Bill 1980 was approved by the House Education Committee, but was not considered by the full House.
Finally, a bill the Senate approved in May to authorize school districts to furlough school employees for economic reasons remains stalled in the House. Senate Bill 612 was not brought up for a final vote before the General Assembly adjourned.
“After a year in office, Gov. Corbett has failed to enact any of these bad policies,” Crossey said. “That is a credit to PSEA’s members and to all of the people across the state who are standing with us to protect our public schools.”
Crossey pointed out that these victories are important, but that more challenges await when the General Assembly reconvenes next year. All of these bills could still be voted in 2012, and the governor may propose even deeper public school funding cuts when he unveils his state budget in February.
“PSEA members should be proud,” Crossey said. “But there is more work to do. We have more challenges to face next year, but I am confident that we will meet them together.”