Pa. Senate backs Corbett choice for education

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s choice for Education secretary is one step away from confirmation.

    The Senate Education Committee voted 11-0 Monday to endorse Ronald Tomalis. After the hearing, Tomalis shied away from specifics, but hinted Corbett will slash education funding during Tuesday’s budget address.

    “Education–represents a large percentage of the dollars that the Pennsylvania taxpayer commits to the commonwealth and to fulfilling our functions. We looked at every single part of the budget,” he said. “We have–one area is very clear, and that is, we lose our stimulus. The stimulus is going away.”

    A cut would represent a major shift from the major Rendell Administration priority of annual education funding increases. During the hearing, Tomalis told lawmakers he doesn’t see dollar amounts as the driving factor of whether education policy is succeeding. He brought up a failing New Jersey school district that spends $22,000 per student.

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    “To say that, if we give that school district–and we can use this example in many school districts in Pennsylvania–but give that school district up to $25,000-, will it turn around the operations? I’m not sure,” he said. “What I am sure is that probably, what will turn around the operations … in the individual schools is a high-performing principal. Is a high-performing teacher. Now that may come at $35,000 an employee. It may come at $65,000 an employee. It may come at $100,000 an employee. I don’t know.”

    Tomalis voiced support for a school vouchers plan, but stopped short of specifically endorsing a vouchers bill authored by Republican Jeff Piccola and Democrat Anthony Williams. The education committee recently held a daylong hearing on the measure, labeled Senate Bill 1.

    Tomalis, who served as deputy secretary of Education for most of the Ridge Administration, worked in the U.S. Department of Education during President George W. Bush’s first term. Most recently, Tomalis directed Dutko Worldwide/Whiteboard Advisors, an education consulting firm.

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