Limited vouchers plan emerges in Pa. House

    There’s new movement on the stalled Republican effort to create a school vouchers program. This time, it’s coming from the Pennsylvania House, and not the Senate.

    House Republican Jim Christiana hopes to introduce a bill in the coming weeks. Much more limited than the Senate vouchers bill, Christiana’s measure would provide funding for poor students in failing schools instead of expanding to a statewide program.

    Senate Bill 1, initially introduced by Republican Jeff Piccola and Democrat Anthony Williams, has been in a holding pattern for several months now. It likely won’t see a Senate vote until the fall. The measure creates a vouchers system that gradually grows over four years. In year one, poor students in failing schools are eligible. Year two expands vouchers to poor students in districts with failing schools; in the third year, all low-income students in the commonwealth are eligible for the vouchers. The amended language makes middle-class families eligible for vouchers in the fourth year of the program.

    House Republican leaders have been resistant to the program. Last month, Speaker Sam Smith said he’d oppose the measure in its current form if it made it to his chamber.

    Christiana is still a relatively green member of the House, but his bill will likely generate serious consideration; its co-sponsors include House Majority Leader Mike Turzai.

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