Lawmakers and students gathered in the State Capitol's rotunda to rally in support of National School Choice Week, with Senator Anthony Williams drawing cheers for his support of Senate Bill 1. The bill, supported by Governor Corbett in his inaugural address, would pull money from the state’s basic education subsidy to provide vouchers to underprivileged students in the state’s worst public schools.
The scholarship’s offered in the bill would provide low-income students the chance to attend a public, private, parochial, or public charter school of their choice.
Senator Anthony Williams of Philadelphia who co-sponsors the bill spoke at the rally saying it’s time we accept the failures of our public education system.
“They’re going to tell you, ‘If you take this money the building will close.’ Guess what? Failing buildings should close,” Williams says.
Senator Williams says time has run out on feeding public schools funds only to see them fail to provide the education students need to excel.
“They’re going say to you that, ‘We don’t need choice, we just need more time.’ Fifty years apparently is not enough time to fix education,” Williams says. “They’re going to say, ‘We don’t need anything else, we just need some more money.’ I guess $26 billion is not enough money.”
An opponent of the bill, Timothy Allwein of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, has come out against the proposal. He says the private schools still maintain the real choice of who is accepted, so the right of choice is in fact, not in the children or parent’s hands. Allwein also says that even removing 25 kids from a struggling school district will not reduce the cost to run the school. He says public schools will still pay the same overhead costs and a decrease in funding would continue to hurt education efforts.
Senate Bill 1 is set in three phases and would be implemented over three years. The first phase would provide only low income students who have no other choice but to attend public schools that are consistently low-scoring in state tests.
The second phase would allow provision for any low-income student who lives in the “area of a persistently low-achieving school, whether they attend that school or not.”
The third and final phase would allow any low-income student in the state of Pennsylvania to attend the school of their choice.