Give Reading public schools a chance, PTO leader says in response to state transfer program – bctv.org – News for Berks County and Reading, Pa: Education
Rosemarie Clive, PTO president at 10th and Green Elementary School in Reading, hopes a new state scholarship program doesn’t lead parents to pull their children from the school.
The school, and 10 other Reading School District schools, was on a list of low-performing schools in which students will be eligible for business-funded scholarships to go to other schools.
Putting 10th and Green on the list based on one year’s worth of test scores is a little hasty, said Clive, who has a son in the school.
Especially because a new principal and vice principal will run the school this year.
“I think parents should give 10th and Green another chance,” Clive said. “There’s going to be a lot of changes.”
Clive said she hopes to meet with the new administration shortly to discuss how to improve student performance at 10th and Green.
“I want to get in there right away,” Clive said.
It’s not clear how many students will get money to switch schools.
Many details of the program are still being worked out, according to Tim Eller, an education department spokesman.
School districts will have more information in the next coming weeks.
Districts are required to notify parents about the program by Wednesday, Aug. 15, and describe it on their websites.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed the law in early July.
It will provide scholarships to families with low and moderate incomes for tuition to private schools or other districts.
On July 25, the state Department of Education released a list of the low-performing schools — 414 school buildings in 74 districts.
Reading School District is the only district in Berks County with schools on the list: seven elementary schools, three middle schools and Reading High School.
Schools that want to accept students have until Wednesday, Aug. 15, to inform the department.
According to a list posted by the state, no public school in Berks County has signed up to take students.
For example, Rudy Ruth, superintendent of Wilson School District, said the district will not participate in the program because it does not allow students from outside the district to attend by paying tuition.
The Gov. Mifflin School Board plans to make a decision about whether to participate in the program later this month, said district spokeswoman Keri Morton.
However, the district typically doesn’t except tuition students, she said.
Berks Catholic High School will allow students from Reading School District to transfer there, said Nikki Gingrich, director of institutional advancement.
Students and the school will benefit, she said.
The district would get more students but not have to use its resources to educate them, Gingrich said.
“It’s another revenue source.”
The maximum award would be $8,500 for general-education students and $15,000 for special-education students.
Tuition at Berks Catholic is $6,400 annually plus a $100 registration fee.
Parents will be responsible for costs that exceed the scholarship.
Students are eligible if their household’s annual income is no greater than $60,000 plus $12,000 for each dependent child.
For example, a family of four – two adults and two children – may be eligible with household income of $84,000.
Parents will need to apply through not-yet-established “opportunity scholarship organizations.”
Businesses that make contributions in exchange for tax credits fund the scholarships.
The amount of scholarships available to students depends upon contributions made by businesses.
However, the state has set the maximum tax credit at $50 million.
Students will be granted scholarships and allowed to transfer on a first come first serve basis, Eller said.
A low-achieving school is defined as a public elementary or secondary school ranking in the bottom 15 percent based on the combined math and reading 2011 PSSA test.
Eller, the state education department spokesman, said he believes the program will prove successful especially in the first year, with many private schools signing up to accept transferring students.
He expects public schools to follow more slowly.
“It’s a change to what’s been normal in Pennsylvania,” Eller said. “But I think public schools are going to jump on this.”
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