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PITTSBURGH FEDERATION OF TEACHERS LEADER URGES LAWMAKERS TO OPPOSE VOUCHER BILL

01.21.11

PITTSBURGH FEDERATION OF TEACHERS LEADER URGES LAWMAKERS TO OPPOSE VOUCHER BILL

John Tarka, PFT President, tells area State Senators not to sign-on as co-sponsors of bill that will take public money from public schools

PITTSBURGH, Penn. – Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) President John Tarka today released a copy of a letter sent late last week to area State Senators expressing his organization’s opposition to Senate Bill 1, urging them not to sign-on as co-sponsors. SB 1, titled by its sponsors as the “Opportunity Scholarship Act,” would provide vouchers to be used to pay tuition at private and parochial schools for students from low income households.

In his letter Tarka said, “As you know, in Pittsburgh and in other school districts across the commonwealth, aggressive steps are being taken to improve student achievement and to increase high school graduation rates. I am concerned that these efforts may be hurt as fiscal challenges are addressed in the coming year. The last thing public school districts need is new legislation that would divert badly needed funds from public schools to private and parochial schools.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Anthony Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat, and Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, a conservative Republican from Dauphin County. Sen. Williams stunned political observers last year in a primary bid for Governor by raising more than $4 million from three contributors pushing school vouchers and charter schools. The Williams campaign made major statewide television commercial buys featuring ads supporting school vouchers and charter schools.

Teachers’ unions are not alone in opposition to the proposed legislation. The Pennsylvania School Board Association has publicly stated its opposition to the tuition voucher plan and other pro-public education organizations are expected to join the fight as the bill begins its trek through the legislative process.

In addition to opposing siphoning critically needed public money from public schools to pay tuitions at private and parochial schools, opponents also criticize the bill for not requiring private schools to accept the students who apply using vouchers for tuition.

“So really what it boils down to is the school making the choice, not necessarily the parents of the student making the choice, which is what supporters of the legislation are always touting,” according to Timothy Allwein of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

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