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Governor’s School Vouchers Initiative Draws Fire

Parents and teachers' groups are responding to Governor Tom Corbett's plans for education reform, unveiled yesterday at a press event held in York.

Among the provisions that have occasioned criticism is a program that would use tax dollars to fund vouchers for private school tuition. The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) teachers' union and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) have both come out against that proposal.

The administration has said that the vouchers will go to families with students in the state's worst-performing schools. But PSBA Director Tom Gentzel said its effect would be to drain needed funds from the public education system. "We would much prefer to see attention paid to improving those schools, those underperforming public schools, for all students," Gentzel said.

At yesterday's announcement, Cumberland County parent Susan Spicka cited a recent PSBA poll to question the voucher plan. "65% of Pennsylvanians do not support using public money to pay private school tutition, and only 11% strongly support a voucher program," Spicka said. "One of our main questions to Governor Corbett is, if the majority of Pennsylvanians don't support vouchers, I don't know why he does."

The voucher program has support from the Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania and the conservative Commonwealth Foundation.

PSEA provides funding for Essential Public Radio's coverage of state government issues.