Corbett Gears Up To Tackle School Reform

Brad Bumsted
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review<

Gov. Tom Corbett said on Wednesday that education reform will be his next major initiative in the fall session.

Corbett’s plan could emerge as soon as next week, supporters say.

He’s an advocate of school choice — providing tuition vouchers for children to attend private or parochial schools. Changes in how charter schools can be created are expected to be part of a package.

“You’ll hear something very clear,” Corbett said.

The Senate and House considered school choice before the summer recess, though neither chamber voted on a bill. Corbett said in June he would consider a compromise along the lines of a bill by Rep. Jim Christiana that limited vouchers to low-income kids in failing school districts.

“The governor seemed like he was willing to sign a compromise bill in the spring,” said Christiana, R-Beaver County. “It seems he’s willing to sign it now. It is my hope we can get it done in the next couple weeks.”

Opponents say with cuts to education funding for public schools that the state can ill afford to fund a voucher program.

School reform would be the second plan released by Corbett, who said he is taking a “deliberative” approach to legislative initiatives.

On Monday, Corbett outlined his priorities for an impact fee on Marcellus shale drilling, calling for legislation that allows counties to approve a fee with 75 percent of the revenue remaining in local hands.

Asked about criticism that some counties might adopt the fee and adjacent counties wouldn’t, Corbett said counties with damage from drilling likely would adopt it.

“What’s the likelihood of a county saying no?” Corbett said.

On the issue of privatizing liquor sales — another Corbett priority — he said he received a 200-page report on Tuesday from a consultant hired by the administration but hasn’t begun reading it. Part of the charge to Public Financial Management was to come up with a figure on the worth of the state’s retail and wholesale liquor monopoly.

“If there’s a large lump sum, I suspect there will be 15 different interest groups banging on the door of the Legislature, and my door, saying ‘we need it, we need it,’ ” Corbett said.

The governor said he hasn’t made a decision on the recommendations from his advisory commission on how to come up with additional revenue to repair the state’s roads and bridges.

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