NEWS: PA State House rejects school-voucher proposal

From The Patriot-News:

Gov. Tom Corbett wanted a school voucher program in his Christmas stocking this year, but the legislators decided against giving it to him.

In a last-ditch effort on Wednesday to deliver vouchers this fall, state House Republican leaders failed to get majority support for this centerpiece of Corbett’s education-reform package.

This could push any chance of another voucher vote until after next year’s legislative election.

Meanwhile, the state Senate voted 26-24 to approve new congressional district boundaries that would govern U.S. House races from next year through 2020. The plan, which recasts the midstate’s congressional delegation, passed intact despite charges by Democrats of a secret political power play and significant dislike from some Republicans. Sens. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, and Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County, voted no. The plan will face a final vote in the House today.

On Wednesday night, the House, following a lengthy debate, voted 105-90 to reject a scaled-back education-reform plan that would expand the state’s Education Improvement Tax Credit program and overhaul the state’s charter school law.

House Republican leaders tried to keep their word on vouchers in the afternoon during an angst-filled caucus discussion. They offered several iterations of voucher plans of a smaller scale than the one that the Senate passed this fall.

“The votes are not there on either side of the aisle,” said Steve Miskin, news secretary to House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, as he announced that the House leaders would shift their focus to the more limited school-reform package.

Members said opposition to even a limited pilot program — which would still be a major shift in public education — came from those opposed to diverting public dollars to private schools.

Others felt they did not want to talk about vouchers in an environment in which state aid to public schools is declining. Still others more clearly didn’t want to risk the wrath of public school teachers — and their unions — and the parents of children in their hometown schools.

Despite that, the Corbett administration was not conceding anything Wednesday night.

“We expect the House leadership to live up to their commitment to the children of Pennsylvania and the governor to run and pass a school-choice bill as quickly as possible,” Corbett’s news secretary, Kevin Harley, said.

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