Home > Charter Schools, December 2011, Politics > Legislators spar over vouchers, spending for charter schools

Legislators spar over vouchers, spending for charter schools

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2011

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BY ED MAHON

A proposal to create taxpayer-funded school vouchers in Pennsylvania may have suffered a fatal blow for this legislative year.

But Republican lawmakers hope they can revive another one of Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed education initiatives in the coming months.

“The issue is not dead. We have to still do a reform package on charter and cyber charters,” said state Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, chairman of the House Education Committee. “The whole idea is to have a fair and balanced package sometime this year that we can present to the committee and then to the General Assembly.”

But some Republicans disagree on what that final charter school package should look like.

State Rep. Mike Fleck, R-Huntingdon, voted against the charter school legislation Wednesday. He’s pushing legislation that would likely decrease funding for cyber charter schools, limit how much they can spend on advertising, and require the state to enforce minimum online and offline hours for students.

“They’re public schools. They’re here to stay,” said Fleck, a former Southern Huntingdon County school board member and current member of the House Education Committee. “But they need to be held to the same requirements as our regular public school system.”

State Rep. Dan Truitt, RChester, has two children enrolled at Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School in a program that blends online classes with brick-and- mortar classes. Also a member of the House Education Committee, Truitt is opposed to the idea of changing the funding formula for cyber charter schools

.“I’m very concerned about the Fleck legislation — that he’s going to accidentally break a good thing,” said Truitt.

The charter and voucher-school legislation failed with a 105-90 vote. Truitt plans to seek out the 20 Republicans who broke ranks with their party to help shoot down the plan.

“What I figure I’m going to have to do is hunt down each one of these people one at a time and find what held them back, what were their reservations,” said Truitt. “I’m looking at this list, trying to understand what the pattern is, and I don’t see anything that I can firmly grasp and say, ‘Aha, that’s where things went wrong.’ ”

The issue is especially relevant in Centre County.

State College Area School District spends more on charter schools than 95 percent of other Pennsylvania school districts. The county has four brick-and-mortar charter schools. The nearby Sugar Valley Rural Charter School typically draws 20 to 30 students fromthe Penns Valley Area. And Centre County students also attend cyber charter schools, including Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, which opened a satellite office in Bellefonte this summer.

Read more: Legislators spar over vouchers, spending for charter schools.

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