2012-06-28 / Local & State

Court Session Held June 19 Corbett Stands To Win Some School-Reform Victories

By Peter Jackson

Senior Judge John R. Walker of the 39th Judicial District and the Fulton/ Franklin County Court of Common Pleas presided over a court session held at the Fulton County Courthouse on Tuesday, June 19.

 Claudia Esmeralda Cabrera was sentenced via video conferencing last Tuesday on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. Cabrera will spend 24 months in the Muncy state correctional institution through the state intermediate punishment program. Credit was granted for time served over the last four months. She will also pay a fine of $1,500.

 Rockford Brodie was granted a continuance until June 26. At that time Brodie will be sentenced on charges of theft by unlawful taking and conspiracy to commit theft.

 Danny Lee Buterbaugh Jr. appeared for sentencing on three counts of selling or furnishing liquor to minors. Buterbaugh will complete 27 months probation and 20 hours of community service. He will pay restitution owed as well as $3,000 in fines.

 Willard Claude Clark was granted a continuance until July 31 for sentencing on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol.

 Laura Emily Hawkins waived arraignment proceedings on charges of possession of a small amount of marijuana and the use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

Hawkins was entered into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program and will complete 12 months probation.

 Estelle M. Myers appeared for formal arraignment on two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and two summary offenses. Myers will participate in the ARD program and complete 12 months probation.

 Cody Marie Watkins appeared in court for mandatory arraignment on charges involving the use or possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence of a controlled substance and a summary offense. Watkins was ordered to complete 12 months probation through the ARD program.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – After more than a year of being demonized for his administration’s deep cuts in state spending for education, Gov. Tom Corbett may soon be able to claim some victories in his school-reform agenda.

As part of this week’s handshake deal on a $27.7 billion spending blueprint, leaders of the Republican majorities in the Legislature promised the GOP governor they would push for passage of four bills he wants on his desk before lawmakers’ scheduled summer break begins a week from now.

“We have some details to work through, but I think it’s a very reachable goal,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware.

The proposals would expand a tax-credit program that helps children from lowincome families transfer to private schools or better public ones, establish a process for assisting financially distressed school districts, place the regulation of charter schools under a statewide board and broaden teacher evaluations to include students” performance on standardized tests.

All the bills need majority support to become law. None is a slam dunk, especially when lawmakers have only a week to pass a state budget and deal with other bills competing for their attention.

But the proposed expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit clearly has a leg up. The leadership agreement tentatively calls for a $75 million increase – one of the largest in a discretionary program from the budget now in place – that would double spending in the program to $150 million in the year that starts July 1. Money for public schools, meanwhile, would remain level.

Corbett campaigned for governor in 2010 on a promise to open an array of taxpayer financed alternatives to public schools, but so far has not delivered. He was roundly criticized last year for failing to do enough to win support for a Senateapproved school-voucher plan that collapsed in the House.

Expanding the popular EITC program would represent tangible progress toward enhanced school choice, good news for Republican candidates and Corbett, who is not up for reelection until 2014.

Advocates for public schools oppose the idea, calling it a giveaway of scarce state dollars that should go to public education.

The EITC program rewards businesses that contribute money, property or services to nonprofit groups that offer scholarships to students from low- and middleincome families who transfer to private schools or to public schools outside their home district. Qualifying contributions also may be made to nonprofits that provide grants for innovative programs at public schools.

The 11-year-old program generated more than a halfbillion dollars in business contributions – an average of $57 million a year – during its first decade, according to the Department of Community and Economic Development, which administers the program.

“We know that the EITC is a successful mechanism to fund education. It’s got a proven track record,” said Kevin Harley, the governor”s spokesman.

Much of the new money for the EITC program would be set aside for a proposed new element – an “educational improvement scholarship credit” aimed at helping students in the state’s academically worst schools. It would mark the first time schools’ performance – a key element of vouchers – would determine eligibility for the scholarships.

State Rep. Paul Clymer, chairman of the House Education Committee, has scheduled a two-hour informational meeting Monday on the proposed scholarship credit, which is contained in a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver.

“The bottom line is we want to provide the best education we can,” said Clymer, R-Bucks. “I’m anxious myself to hear what people have to say.”

Sen. Andrew Dinniman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, said any EITC expansion is likely to win bipartisan support so long as the state government can afford it.

“ No one quite knows what to do with all these (public) schools that aren’t working, so this is one approach,” said Dinniman, DChester.

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