Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Education Sec Nominee 1 Step Away

The Senate Education Committee voted 11-0 yesterday to endorse Ronald Tomalis, Governor Tom Corbett's nominee for Pennsylvania's Education Secretary. After the hearing, Tomalis shied away from specifics, but hinted Corbett will slash education funding during this morning’s budget address. “Education is – represents a large percentage of the dollars that the Pennsylvania taxpayer commits to the commonwealth and to fulfilling our functions. We looked at every single part of the budget,” he said. “We have – one area is very clear, and that is, we lose our stimulus. The stimulus is going away.”

A cut would represent a major shift from the major Rendell Administration priority of annual education funding increases. During the hearing, Tomalis told lawmakers he doesn’t see dollar amounts as the driving factor of whether or not education policy is succeeding. He brought up a failing New Jersey school district that spends $22,000-per-student. “To say that, if we give that school district – and we can use this example in many school districts in Pennsylvania – but give that school district up to $25,000-, will it turn around the operations? I’m not sure.” He continued, “What I am sure is that probably, what will turn around the operations…in the individual schools is a high-performing principal. Is a high-performing teacher. Now that may come at $35,000 an employee. It may come at $65,000 an employee. It may come at $100,000 an employee. I don’t know.”

Tomalis voiced support for a school vouchers plan, but shied away from specifically endorsing a vouchers bill authored by Republican Jeff Piccola and Democrat Anthony Williams. The Education Committee recently held a day-long hearing on the measure, labeled Senate Bill 1.

Tomalis served as Deputy Education Secretary for most of the Ridge Administration, and worked in the US Department of Education during President George W. Bush’s first term. Most recently, Tomalis directed Dutko Worldwide/Whiteboard Advisors, an education consulting firm.

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