Govs duel over school funding, PA student achievement

Rendell v.Corbett in a Rotunda smackdown? Well, not quite.

But in a day filled with an unusually high level of activity and emotion in the Capitol, with Marcellus Shale bills being debate in both houses and the endless Penn State fallout, the two governors held back-to-back events to duke it out over how best to education Pennsylvania's children.

Gov. Corbett was up first Tuesday, standing at a podium in the Rotunda surrounded by students and supporters of school tuition vouchers - most of them Catholic school students in an archdiocese-sponsored event.

Corbett said funneling more money into public education won't to fix the system's problems.

"Go back and look at it, we have been spending more money," said Corbett, who is supporting a voucher bill that has passed the Senate but not the House. "We haven't gotten any better, as far as I'm concerned."

Not so, said Corbett's predecessor, former Gov. Ed Rendell, minutes later at the same podium.

Rendell, making his first public appearance in Harrisburg since leaving office in January, came armed with federal statistics and other independent studies. 

He said the reports conclude that Pennsylvania students have made progress in the eight years he was in office in large part because of targeted funding that allowed for pre-k, full-day kindergarten and tutoring programs, among other new initiatives - many of which are being dismantled because of budget cuts.

One study, he said, showed Pennsylvania was among a handful of states whose public schools improved in all grades and subjects over the past eight years.

"So don't let anybody stand at this rostrum or anywhere else and tell you that you can't make public education work," said Rendell.

Rendell said he isn't opposed to vouchers and added that if he were governor he'd consider signing a pilot program, so long as it did not take money away from public schools. He urged the legislature to begin to rebuild the education budget - cut by some $800 million this year  - and called adequate funding of public schools a "moral obligation."



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