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

Campaign update: The 2012 session is racing to a close, with insiders predicting that negotiations will conclude and the budget will be finalized by the June 30th deadline. Governor Corbett and leaders in the House and Senate publically announced that they’ve agreed on a $27.7 billion budget and a number of key legislative issues, but the details of each of those issues are still being negotiated.

The good news is that all four of our policy goals are still on the table! While nothing if final until the last vote is cast, the fact that all of out issues are still alive is a huge victory.

Here’s an update on each of our issues:

Expand high-quality choices

  •  Charter Schools: Pennsylvania is on the brink of making the first substantive reforms to its charter school law since it was created back in 1997. But lawmakers are still debating whether to create an independent statewide authorizer and a commission to study charter school funding. We’re working hard with other advocates to make sure they do.
  • Education Improvement Scholarship Credit (EISC): It looks like there’s strong bipartisan support for creating a tax credit for corporations that give scholarships to low-income students who are assigned to attend failing schools.  Legislative leaders seem committed to the program, but details about eligibility requirements and other implementation logistics still need to be worked out.  Funding is another open question: Governor Corbett has proposed funding it at $50 million, but we’re trying to move that number closer to $100 million to give as many as 10,000 low-income students access to those scholarships.

Measure teacher effectiveness

Governor Corbett and Secretary Tomalis have both signaled that enacting a comprehensive statewide teacher evaluation system is one of their top priorities. Kids in the Keystone State deserve top-notch teachers who receive meaningful feedback and development. But if state leaders fail to act, Pennsylvania could lose   federal dollars. House leaders have indicated they support the bill, and now PennCAN is working to shore up support with all other legislative partners to make sure the bill has the backing it needs to pass.

Start smart

Governor Corbett’s initial budget proposal cut funding for Accountability Block grants, which help districts provide early childhood education.  But thankfully both houses of the legislature agreed to restore this funding in their budget amendments.  That means that unless there are additional changes, there will be $100 million dollars for high-need districts to provide pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten after all! 

For questions on any of these policies or to learn what you can do to help, please contact me at 


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