Jonathan Cetel is the founding executive director of PennCAN. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Late last night, the Governor signed the budget into law, and in doing so, delivered the final verdict on the policy goals we’ve been advocating for. The good news? The final budget deal includes three of our four policy goals. The bad news? In the final hours, lawmakers let political stalemate stand in the way of expanding high-quality school options.

Here’s the breakdown of what we got out of the 2012 legislative session:

  • We gave low-income families a way out of failing schools. More low-income students will be able to attend out-of-district public and private schools thanks to the Educational Improvement Scholarship Credit, a $50 million tax credit for companies providing scholarships to students assigned to failing schools.
  • We passed legislation to measure teacher effectiveness. For the first time in more than 40 years, our teachers will receive meaningful feedback on their work. Instead of receiving a perfunctory “satisfactory” check mark, teachers will now be evaluated under a new system that incorporates student achievement and has four rating categories.
  • We restored funding for full-day kindergarten. Governor Corbett’s initial budget would have cut $100 million for the accountability block grant, which helps districts fund early education programs like full-day kindergarten. But thankfully this funding was restored in the final deal, so more districts can continue offering these life-changing programs.
  • No relief for the 40,000 families on charter school waiting lists. Lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have expanded high-quality choices for the 40,000 Pennsylvania families on charter school waiting lists. The bill would have amended the charter school law for the first time since 1997 by increasing authorizing options, studying funding inequities and increasing academic and fiscal accountability.

With your help we came a long way this session, but our work is far from over. Stay tuned next week for more on each policy goal, how we got to where we are and the next steps for education reform in the Commonwealth.

Thank you again for all that you do.


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