Pattye Benson

Community Matters

school choice

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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