WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett today announced a sweeping education reform package that would create an expansive voucher program for low-income families stuck in failing schools, ensure strict accountability standards for charter schools, and increase eligibility for the state's highly-successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.
The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—praised the governor, State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne, and Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis for supporting a legislative package that is poised to significantly improve the educational futures of thousands of Keystone State students beginning as early as next year.
Corbett's plan—which he said he hopes to see passed into law this fall—would create an Opportunity Scholarship Program that would grant scholarships to low-income students living in the state's lowest performing 5 percent of schools. Families with incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for a full voucher, while families making up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for 75 percent of the full scholarship amount.
The multi-faceted package also calls for a significant expansion of the EITC program, which currently serves about 40,000 low-income students statewide. The decade-old program—the nation's largest private school choice program by student enrollment—is currently the only private school choice option for Pennsylvania families.
"We can't continue down this same path and think we're going to get a different result," Corbett said at a press conference today announcing the plan. "We have to think and act smarter."
Browne, the Senate Majority Whip, spoke at the press conference about the importance of these initiatives in helping increase the state's "workforce competence," which he called the defining factor in determining where Pennsylvania ranks in the next generation.
Corbett's reform agenda builds off of a plan introduced earlier this year by State Sens. Jeffrey Piccola (R) and Anthony Williams (D), two of the most ardent supporters of school choice in the state legislature. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 1, was approved by the Senate Education Committee in March.
Williams today released a statement praising the governor's plan, saying that it "will strengthen accountability as well as expand avenues to quality education for Pennsylvania's families."
SOURCE American Federation for Children