LONG ON VISION but short on details, Gov. Corbett yesterday unveiled an education-reform package that he said gives students statewide "a fighting chance."
The changes aim to foster competition in all schools and step up student performance, Corbett told a student audience during a news conference at the Lincoln Charter School gym, in York.
The proposed reforms, which have been discussed in public for several months, focused on improvements to the charter-school system: increased funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, a tax-credit program for businesses that underwrite scholarships and other academic programs; establishment of "opportunity scholarships" (vouchers); and an overhaul of the state teacher-evaluation system.
But specifics, such as cost and the "hows" and "whens" of Corbett's reforms, went unsaid.
"We're here because we can't continue down the same path and think that we're going to get a different result," Corbett said. "We have to think and act smarter. We have to have the will to do better."
The Opportunity Scholarship Program will provide families with choice, according to the plan. Eligible students would receive tuition assistance if their families earned $29,000 or less and lived within the attendance zone of the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state.
The Department of Education would administer the program, and there would be more accountability by requiring recipients to take a test to measure for academic performance, he said.
Corbett also proposed increasing the $75 million tax-credit program. A bill that seeks to expand the program to $100 million and then to $200 million has passed the House, but not the Senate.
Corbett didn't mention the costs of the voucher program and the tax credits during his remarks. A spokeswoman for the governor didn't respond to a Daily News inquiry about the program's cost.
State Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr., D-West Phila., said that 60 to 65 percent of state residents oppose vouchers, adding that schools can deny children entry.
"The critical problem in all of this is that it doesn't guarantee anyone anything," said Roebuck, who chairs the House Education Committee.
It's a one-way street for city students, he said. Philadelphia schools accept students from Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware counties, Roebuck said, yet suburban schools "aggressively block Philadelphia kids from attending" their schools.
"It's all a sham," Roebuck said, referring to the proposal.
Corbett also proposed more-comprehensive teacher evaluations that wouldn't assess educators just in "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory" terms. The proposed system would instead evaluate teachers as "distinguished," "proficient," "needs improvement" and "failing."
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, called Corbett's remarks on new evaluations "a very, very simple statement."
"What does it mean to be 'distinguished'? Who evaluates them? How often?" he asked. "That's the meat that has to be on the bone."