A voucher system for students in the poorest regions of the state and an increase of a tax credit program for businesses are highlights of an education reform package recently unveiled by Governor Tom Corbett.

Reactions to the plan were as expected with the the state’s largest teacher union saying it would actively work to defeat the proposal while business groups were quick to praise the plan.

“Academic achievement has not matched the money spent on education in the Commonwealth, which has increased beyond the rate of inflation over the past two decades even as student enrollment has declined,” said Gene Barr, President of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “This is a poor return on investment for our young people, as well as for taxpayers.”

But Wythe Keever, Assistant Communications Director of PSEA, said they would work against any plan that “takes one more dime away from public education.”

“We’re talking about a governor who took over $800 million last year from public education. A voucher program would take even more funding away from our schools,” Keefer said.

Under the voucher program, students in a family of four would have to have a family income under $29,000 annually, or 130 percent of the federal poverty level. To qualify for a voucher for 75 percent of state funding to follow the student, the family-of-four’s income would have to be under $41,000, Corbett said, or 185 percent of the poverty level.

Under the tax credit plans, businesses that provide funding for scholarships and other educational improvement organizations, as well as academic programs and other benefits to students in all schools, from all socio-economic backgrounds, to pursue educational goals and advanced learning opportunities.

Specifically, the plan calls for:

  • An increase to the EITC to provide greater educational opportunities to eligible students from low- and middle-income families beyond the nearly 40,000 students served each year.
  • The increased EITC will also provide additional funding to educational improvement organizations that can potentially provide benefits to all schools.
  • Program reforms will be proposed along with the increased tax credit.

Finally, the governor’s plan calls for improved charter school quality and accountability, and more comprehensive educator evaluations.