School Voucher (Senate Bill 1) Vote on Bill Delayed . . . What Does this Mean?

The proposed legislation to create a school voucher program for Pennsylvania (Senate Bill 1) was approved by the Senate Appropriation Committee on Monday, April 11 with a vote of 15-11 but a scheduled Tuesday, April 12 vote on the bill was delayed until April 26 at the earliest . . . what does this mean for the future of SB 1?  Sometimes, a delay can mean that a bill is in trouble, is that the case here?

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Gov. Corbett is not letting go of the proposed school voucher plan, or at least not easily. Apparently, in an unusual move (and rarely done by governors), Corbett appeared before the closed-door caucus of the Senate GOP to argue in favor of the school choice legislation.  I guess it was thought that by bringing in the ‘big guns’ the bill could be pushed through the Senate but it appears that idea didn’t work as planned.

SB 1 would allow students (based on family income eligibility) to attend private or parochial schools of their choice with state-paid vouchers. The projected costs associated with the implementation of a school voucher program are estimated by Senate Republicans to be at least $328 million by 2013.  However, there is pushback on that number by the Democrats, who estimate the annual costs are actually higher, their estimate is $385 million by 2013.

The stated reason for delaying the Senate vote to April 26 is that one of the co-sponsors of the bill, Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia), is ill. However, that does not make sense because Williams could vote by proxy from his home.  My guess is that even with Corbett’s encouragement (arm-twisting?) it was determined that there were not enough votes for the SB 1 to pass the Senate on April 12 and the administration is hoping the delay to April 26 will provide persuasion opportunities. 

Guess we will have to wait until April 26 and see if there is a Senate vote on SB 1.  If the 26th comes and goes, it would appear that the proposed school choice bill is dead in the water. On the other hand, is it possible that the school voucher bill could fail in the Senate and be reincarnated in the House?

The outcome of SB 1 could prove interesting for Corbett, since this is the first major legislation that he has pushed since taking office.  Facing pressure in regards to his proposed funding cuts to public education, maybe the Governor will decide against further pushing of the school choice legislation.

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  1. Thanks for the school voucher update Pattye. Looks to me like Rep. Kampf may not have to register his opinion after all on school choice. I can guess where he was leaning.

    Do you know if there are any plans for Kampf or Dinniman to attend any of the TESD school board meetings?

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I have not heard anything about either Kampf or Dinniman attending any of our school district meetings. I think I read somewhere that Kampf attended a Phoenixville school district meeting, don’t know if it was a finance meeting or a regular school board meeting. As our elected officials, I would be encouraged if they would attend and show support for TESD and the budget challenges!

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    From the West Reply:

    As our elected officials, I would be encouraged if they would attend and show support for TESD and the budget challenges!

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    I think it is unbelievable to think that our elected officials (of both parties) are not in fairly regular contact with School Board members and school officials across their respective districts, as well as residents. Showing up at a meeting is theater and little else — our Reps/Sens can find out what they need without going to a meeting, and they usually do. While I understand that theater can be important, it is also a waste of time that might be better spent working to adjust the budget to get some more $$ back into schools

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    John White Reply:

    “I think it is unbelievable to think that our elected officials (of both parties) are not in fairly regular contact with School Board members and school officials across their respective districts, as well as residents. Showing up at a meeting is theater and little else”

    They can’t be everywhere at once. They have to be in Harrisburg, in their districts, in multiple counties (depending on their districts.) They have to make do with a budget that cuts them to the bone and forces them to employ a skeleton crew of staff. And they now have to do this amid a clamor to further reduce their budgets and the number of state reps by 50 or so.

    I have no idea why anyone in their right mind would pursue a career in politics. It’s far from glamorous and you’ve got thousands of bosses (most of whom have no idea how hard you’re actually working, most of whom have not the slightest clue how to do your job with the slightest degree of competence) always looking to tell you how badly you’re performing and threatening to fire you at the earliest opportunity.

  2. The voucher program is not about choice and the facts make that clear. For if it were, it would pass. The R’s have a 30-20 advantage

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    Actually, that’s just not true. As several articles point out — and quote GOP Senators — rural areas do not have as much to gain from choice because of a lack of other schools to choose to attend. Because of this, it is a difficult vote for many rural members. In the House, that will only intensify because of numbers. Even those who support choice understand that there have to be other available options for it to work.

    [Reply]

  3. At some point, you are just going to have to accept the fact that the voucher bill is a veiled GOP attempt at union busting.

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    I can accept that is part of the game. And, I am all for it when it comes to the power that teachers’ unions hold. In PA, they essentially hold communities hostage and, regardless of the terms, get their jobs back at the end because of contract terms that insist all teachers hired must have worked in the district within one or two years.

    HOWEVER, there are many people who are committed to this bill as CHOICE — a way to finally end the stranglehold that failing public schools (particularly in the city) have had over kids for generations. Is this the best way? Who knows for sure. But one thing we do know for sure: the way that has been tried time and again doesn’t work. The Philly school system in particular is the definition of insanity.

    [Reply]

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