Are More Educational Options in PA’s Future?

Both gubernatorial candidates have voiced support for government-funded grants to allow parents to choose an alternative school for their children. Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is set to capitalize on this opportunity by sponsoring a day-long hearing on October 13th to prepare for new school choice legislation come January.

Senator Piccola is optimistic that enough has changed to erode some of the opposition and fear about surrounding education vouchers. Of course, the teachers unions, school boards and administrators, and other public school advocates still see vouchers as undermining funding for public education.

Steelton-Highspire District Superintendent Audrey Utley claims:

If the goal is to expand the educational options available to students presently in struggling school districts, the increased availability of public charter schools and cyber charter schools has already achieved that goal.

It’s true educational options have increased, but not enough. Many families are stuck on long waiting lists for Pennsylvania’s EITC program. In Philadelphia, over half of parents say they do not have enough good choices when it comes to picking a school. And charter schools continue to gain popularity with enrollment 170% higher than it was in the 2000-2001 school year.

Despite these facts, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission is enforcing an illegal enrollment cap placed on the William D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, even though the school recently expanded to include grades 9-12. Senator Piccola filed an amicus brief in the case explaining the legislature never intended to limit the growth of charter schools and enrollment caps are clearly prohibited by state law.

Using enrollment caps public schools are purposefully disregarding the wishes of parents and what’s best for the student. However, with the support of the new governor disgruntled parents may not be waiting for long.