NEWS: Alternative School Choice Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

With state lawmakers have kicked budget negotiations into high-gear (now that both chambers are run by the GOP, like the gov’s office, the only word on those talks is “they’re going fine”), there may be another issue beyond a shale tax/fee aiming to get shoehorned into that budget package.

Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, is circulating a memo seeking support on his version of a school vouchers bill. A Senate measure was chugging through that chamber, before getting delayed as changes expanded that program to include middle-class kids in the out-years.

Christiana’s bill, which his memo (via Scott Detrow of WITF) dubs as the Students and School Rescue Act, create a voucher program aimed at low-income students and those who live in the attendance boundaries of an under-performing school. That’s similar to what Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, proposed for the first two years of his program.

In year three, Piccola would expand that to middle-class students. Under Christiana’s plan, those middle-class kids would be eligible for scholarships through an expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit. The House already has approved a measure to expand that program, which gives a tax credit to companies that fund private-school scholarships.

Christiana said he had concerns that expanding vouchers to more students and schools in the third year of Piccola’s program “could have a negative impact on good public schools.” He also said he believed his version to be less expensive due to that change.

He differentiated between vouchers, viewing them as “life preservers” for poorer students or those in failing schools, and private-school scholarships, which he said give choices to parents.

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