PhillyClout dropped in on another gubernatorial forum last night -- this time on job training and the state's workforce -- where the four Democrats and two Republicans rarely found areas of disagreement. The one exception was the controversial topic of school vouchers, the redirection of public money for private tuition.
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a Democrat, is funding his run largely through big donations from people interested in vouchers and other school reform topics. The Republicans, state Attorney General Tom Corbett and state Rep. Sam Rohrer, also favor vouchers. Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, a Democrat pitching himself as the most progressive candidate in the race, said he opposes vouchers.
Hoeffel serves on the development committee of the Community Partnership School in Philadelphia, which serves pre-kindergarten to fourth-grade students and takes no public funding. The school participates in the state's Education Improvement Tax Credit program, started in 2001 to give corporations state tax credits in return for donations to schools.
Hoeffel last night rejected suggestions that the EITC program is akin to vouchers. "I think the kind of non-public school voucher program that Tony Williams advocates would wreck public education," Hoeffel said. "That's just a totally different concept than that tax credit, which I think is a viable incentive."
Williams countered that critics often deride the EITC program as a "back-door voucher" that could wreck public schools. "I think they're at least kissing cousins if they're not directly related," Williams said of the program and vouchers. "This is public money that goes to private schools."