PA Sen. Education Committee Chairman seeks bipartisan school choice measures

State Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-Dauphin) is chair of the Senate Education Committee and figures to be a key figure in the education reform debate in Pennsylvania next year.

Recently, he announced his intention – along with colleagues Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) and Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) – to introduce legislation expanding the state’s education options beyond the charter schools and opportunity grant programs which currently exist.  Governor-elect Tom Corbett has also expressed support for school choice and has packed his transition team’s Education Committee with supporters of the cause.  Mr. Piccola is among the members of the transition team as well.

Last week, Mr. Piccola sat down with PA Independent for an exclusive interview on the future of education in the Keystone State, the new attempt to institute school choice and the frustration of lawmakers with the state’s education unions.

You’ve said that education reform is the “civil rights movement of the next decade.”  Why now?  What has changed in American culture that has made this shift?

It think everything agrees that access to and the opportunity to avail yourself of a quality education is the surest guarantee of success of the individual in the future.  So, to the extent that our current method of delivery of education opportunity discriminates against people simply by virtue of the place that they live – their ZIP code – to me is a violation of a fundamental civil right.