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Rendell vs. Swann on Education

November 15, 2006

Educational reform is an important issue in any race, no matter if it is at the local, state, or federal level. Reforming and funding education is an important issue that many Pennsylvania voters are concerned about. The majority of candidates who run for public office have some sort of plan or plans concerning reforming education. Lynn Swann (R) who ran for Governor of Pennsylvania had outlined a plan to improve education in the state. For Swann the state needs to do more then just give schools money. He wants each school to be accountable for every cent that they spent; he wants the state to track what programs the schools invest in. For Swann the money should go into programs that will have a lasting effect on our students.

One program that Swann wants to expand on is the EITC (Educational Improvement Tax Credits) program, which provides tax credits for companies who invest in Pennsylvania schools. Over the last four years EITC program has invested over 200 million in educational support. Many of these companies’ provide/donate supplies like computers and technological equipment to the schools at a small cost or at no cost. For example many publishing companies donate or cut the prize on textbooks, software, and workbooks, and teaching supplies.

Other companies just sponsor programs, which raise money for local schools in their area. Other companies/business help schools raise money through magazine sales, candy sales etc. The purpose of the program is to encourage more companies to invest in Pennsylvania schools, and in-turn they will receive a tax cut. According Swann, many companies have been turn away from contributing to the educational programs, because of the Rendell’s administration’s refusal to expand the program. He wants to double the available Educational Improvement Tax Credits from 49 million to 98 million beginning July 1st, 2007.

Swann has other educational programs, which he wants to expand on, and introduce. One of the ideas that he wants to focus on is providing low-income students access to better performing schools. Within the last year, 600 schools were deemed inadequate in Pennsylvania, and 80 school districts have not met state standards for more then six- year in a row. Many of these schools are failing because of the lack funding or the lack of tax dollars that the community can raise. The poorer the community the worst the school district will be. Many struggling schools are located in the poorer areas, like in Reading and Philadelphia. Again many small towns in the suburbs and in small rural areas all across the state are also struggle do to lack of funding.

When the local community fails to raise enough money to help continue or jump-start programs, sometimes the state will step in. Swann’s program called EOZ or Education Opportunity Zones was designed to provide low-income and minority students with greater access to better performing school. Basically schools located in the zone will be given additional aid and resources from the state. But if the school still is not meeting state standards and are failing, the parents with have the option to move their child to a better performing school. Those families who decide to send their child to better school will receive tax credits against personal income tax for educational costs. Parents can send their child to another public school or a private schools. His program is different to school voucher program which allows parents to send their children to better performing schools. In the school voucher program the state or the district plays for that child to attend a better performing schools.

Besides providing better schools, Swann also wants to improve the reading and math skills of our students. If Swann if elected, all children will be required to demonstrate grade-level skills in math and reading before they can be promoted to the 4th grade. If they fail to past the test they can not past on to next grade till they do. For Swann he was to invest into tutoring programs which will help students to meet the standards and past the test. What comes into question is how are the expectations for IEP students going to be graded. Do they have to meet the same standards as the average student, or will there be exceptions made? There will also be students who do lag behind, will help be provided for them. Certain grades are tested each year to see if the school is meeting the state standards. Schools districts are under a lot of pressure to meet the standards that are set by the state, and NCLB (No Child Left Behind). They need to need too meet the standards that are set under NCLB. Many teachers spent more time teaching their students how to take the state test rather then on instruction. For Swann he was to invest into tutoring programs which will help students past this test.

Last but not least, Swann wants to change how teachers are paid. He not only wants to pay teachers based on their years of service, and educational credentials. Swann also wants to reward effective teachers, whose students are surpassing the state standards. Awards will be granted annual to teachers who have demonstrated the greatest gains in student achievement. What comes into question is how are these teachers going to be graded or evaluated? Will it be based on their students test scores or their overall performance throughout the entire school year or both? What about those teachers who are really doing their best, but their students are still lagging behind.

What comes down to is that every candidate has his own stance on how to improve education. Swann has outlined a plan on how he would like to improve education in the state. For some of his plans to either continue or go into effect, he will need to raise money. Some of that money will have to come from state taxes. Which may lead to a tax hike and many people right now can not afford that. If the funds come from the school district itself, that my led to a tax hike from the township or borough. For all plans and reforms to work money will be needed, and candidates need to convince the voting public that their programs are necessary.

Sarah Keppen

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