Pennsylvania Senate Gets Teacher Furlough, School Voucher Bills

Monday, 05 Dec 2011 05:10 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Measures allowing school vouchers and teacher furloughs will hit the Pennsylvania House floor this week as educators voice concerns about both plans. The state Senate has already approved the measures, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and critics say the plans could lead to fewer students and teachers in the state’s public schools.
Republican State Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, who sponsored the voucher legislation, says his bill is aimed at getting a better education for the state’s bottom 5bpercent “worst of the worst” schools. He said vouchers will “open up opportunities for students who don’t have options.”
The vouchers would range from $5,800 to $13,900 per student, depending on the district’s share of funding. The voucher money would come from state aid given to the students’ home school districts.
If the voucher legislation is approved, family income of students will be used to determine who qualifies. The voucher law is under strong opposition among educators and unions, which say it’s not fair for private schools to get state money without having to meet state mandates for testing, audits, and other laws.
Meanwhile, Republican state Senator Mike Folmer is seeking a bill permitting teacher layoffs for economic reasons and to control school districts’ costs.
The law requires that districts that lay off teachers much lay off an equal number of administrators. Current Pennsylvania law says teachers can only be laid off if enrollment drops sharply, buildings are closed, or when courses or programs are eliminated.
Reaction for Folmer’s bill is mixed, with some school superintendents saying the bill is necessary if state education funds keep getting cut. Other educators, however, say furloughing teachers will lead to lower-quality education.

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