PA GOP education plan

PA House GOP leader Sam Smith, along with a number of state representatives unveiled an alternate planto Governor Rendell’s education budget proposals – get the Patriot News story here and the AP story here.

The plan includes:

  • Establish a state-run Pennsylvania Virtual High School.
  • Create a “Tools of the Trade” block grant for school districts and vocational-technical schools to purchase textbooks, computers, educational technology, equipment or other instructional materials.
  • Initiate a career awareness and dropout-prevention pilot program.
  • Expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $10-15 million.

I would have offered the following comments, had I been asked for advice. The principles of funding by enrollment and giving school greater flexibility in how they spend that money (as opposed to state mandates for specific initiatives) are a good principle, but neither the “tools of the trade” nor the career awareness programs are very meaningful. Changing the state education subsidy formula to follow the child, such as the Weighted Student Funding model would be a more meaningful reform.

    Instead of a “state-run” Virtual High School, why not attempt to use the current cyber charter schools to provide some of these programs and options to school districts?

    Finally, expanding the EITC should be a top priority. I called for that in both of my budget testimonies, noting that, as 14% of all school students attend non-public schools, the EITC should be increased by over $70 million, in proportion to Governor Rendells $500 million proposal for increase school district subsidies. Furthermore, the pre-school EITC scholarship cap should be substantially expanded from its current cap of $5 million (given the prevalence of privately run pre-school) as an alternative to Governor Rendell’s proposal of hundreds of millions in increased subsidies for publicly-run pre-schools.

    We would also encourage expanding school choice through our Property Tax Relief Scholarship Act proposal.