Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett Speaks About Voucher Plan

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is set to provide vouchers for low-income students in poor-performing school districts and expand tax credits for businesses that fund scholarships, writes WGAL.com.

Corbett said poor students attending the worst performing 5 percent of the state’s schools would have access to “opportunity scholarships” to help them attend the public or private school of their choice, as reported at Education News this week.

Under the plan Corbett announced at Lincoln Charter School in York, student achievement would count along with classroom observation as part of the rating teachers receive.

The current satisfactory/unsatisfactory standard would be replaced with a four-grade system of “distinguished,” “proficient,” “needs improvement” or “failing.”

In a statement the Governor details his education plan:

“We are set to start work on one of the most important jobs state government can do,’’ Corbett said, and that is to rearrange our priorities when it comes to education. It needs to be: child, parent, teacher … and just in that order,’’ Corbett said, speaking at the Lincoln Charter School in York.”

Corbett said his staff worked with legislators over the summer to negotiate reform proposals, receiving support on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly, but also among constituent groups and communities across Pennsylvania, writes WGAL.com.

“We can’t guarantee their success, but we owe all students a fighting chance,’’ Corbett said. “We’re talking about our children and we owe it to them to reform the system.’’

These changes, Corbett said, are designed to foster competition in all schools and increase our students’ overall achievement.

The governor’s plan includes:

An Opportunity Scholarship Program, which would provide tuition assistance for eligible students to attend a public or non-public school of their choice.

Eligibility for scholarships would be based on income and residence within the attendance zones of the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools across the state.

The proposal ensures accountability by requiring opportunity scholarship recipients to take an assessment to measure academic achievement.

Should a child leave their school district to attend another school, the state dollars will “follow” the child.

The program aims to provide tax credits to businesses that provide funding for scholarships and other educational improvement organizations

“Some students are consigned to failure because of their ZIP codes,’’ Corbett said.

“They live in the shadow of failing public schools they must attend because their families lack the resources or ability to enroll them elsewhere… Opportunity scholarships provide additional choices for Pennsylvania students.’’

Specifically, this legislation will:

Establish a statewide authorization entity to approve, license or and oversee charter schools.

Make it easier to convert buildings to charter schools.

Improve the current payment mechanism of charter schools.

The legislation will also increase accountability provisions on charter schools and require officials to comply with the state’s ethics and financial responsibility laws.

Pennsylvania needs a comprehensive method to provide a fair, credible and accurate measure of educators, Corbett said, rather than “a rubber stamp’’ that allows teachers and administrators to remain in their positions with little true evaluation of effectiveness.