Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis briefed the House Education Committee last Thursday on the governor’s “main priorities for 2012.” Not surprisingly, these “reforms” include “charter schools, school choice, EITC and an enhanced
teacher evaluation system.” (Pennsylvania Legislative Services, Jan. 19, 2012)
Make no mistake, this is a multi-pronged attack on public education, disguised in the language of “choice” and “reform.” In the coming days we will be posting more information about each of Gov. Corbett’s “education priorities” under The Facts menu tab.
But let’s take a minute to look at that slippery “school choice” category. This is Corbett’s code word for vouchers, which sound great on the surface to a lot of families since they appear to offer choices (and what could be more American?). This can be genuinely attractive to families who feel their kids have been under-served by their local schools. Yet the vast majority of Pennsylvania children are educated in public schools that are doing a pretty good — and even excellent — job. Naturally, we should fix schools that aren’t working: but Corbett and his allies have successfully highjacked the conversation by focusing on “failing schools,” as if this were the norm, effectively labeling all public schools as “failures.”
The bottom line is vouchers are expensive, not supported by research, and worse, take money away from schools that are already trying to deal with budget cuts. (See Education Voters PA fact sheet on vouchers for more information.) The PA House refused to pass Corbett’s voucher bill last month, but the issue will clearly be back. If state legislators want to help struggling schools and communities, they must focus on improvements that benefit all our children, not just some. And we need to start by restoring funding for our public schools.
Remember to call your legislators on Wednesday for the statewide call-in day and tell them to stop the budget cuts to public education!