HARRISBURG, October 11, 2011 – In response to Governor Tom Corbett’s announcement of his education reform plan today, State Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) said that an education reform proposal must be designed to reach all of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable students.

“We should not fear change, but the choice has to be one that helps all students in failing schools,” Hughes said. “Proposed reform shouldn’t take funds from public schools or pit public schools against private school for taxpayer resources.

“Reform should start with using ideas in education that have a long record of success and not rely on concepts where the evidence of academic achievement is inconclusive.”

Corbett’s plan would provide taxpayer-funded vouchers for students to go to private or public schools. His proposal also includes an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, an easing of the process to establish charter schools, and a new method of evaluating teachers.

Hughes said that he is awaiting the full details on Corbett’s package, including specifics on the long-term financial impact, but said that Pennsylvania needs to be careful about not taking resources from troubled schools.

“We have to find the means to boost student academic achievement while giving public schools the tools to help all students,” Hughes said. “More details are needed about the governor’s plan so we can accurately determine the cost of the plan over the long haul.”

Hughes, who serves as the Democratic chair of the Appropriations Committee said that a comprehensive reform plan must also include charter and cyber school reform, measurable performance standards for both public and private schools that receive taxpayer dollars, and fair teacher evaluation methodologies.
Hughes said that there are alternatives available to help students and schools achieve.

“Schools are in need of innovative solutions,” Hughes said. “Smaller class sizes, longer school days, and linking additional services with schools are concepts that have worked for decades and could bring about the change that is needed in these schools.”

Senator Hughes added that he has developed his own education reform plan called Hope Academies that would help the lowest performing schools in Pennsylvania. Hughes’ proposal includes smaller class sizes, longer days, summer school and Saturday classes. The targeted schools would be referred to as Hope Academies.

Hughes stated that public schools are already struggling with severe budget cuts as a result of Gov. Corbett’s budget and do not have the resources or the latitude that private schools have in adjusting policy. Shifting dollars from these schools will be detrimental, Hughes noted.

“Pennsylvania has demonstrated a long history of success in education. Since we’ve invested in early childhood education and made other key investments test scores have improved,” Hughes said. “If we abandon our schools now, we risk overturning the progress we have made. We must continue to invest in our children and our schools.”

Hughes added that education policy reform must be done with a long-term plan in mind with clearly defined goals.

For more information, visit www.senatorhughes.com or Facebook and Twitter (SenatorHughes).