State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Inter-Senate sparring after education chair's divisive comment

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 21, 2017 10:26 PM

Eichelberger's comments on vocational schools raised some eyebrows at his town hall, and caused some raised voices in the Senate. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- A state senator's remarks at a recent town hall have prompted some calls for him to step down from the committee he chairs.

Republican John Eichelberger of Blair County heads the Senate Education panel, and he's receiving harsh criticism from across the aisle after saying inner city students might benefit from less intensive academics.

Eichelberger--who's an outspoken school choice advocate--told the crowd money was being wasted pushing unprepared inner city kids into college programs. He suggested it might be better-spent getting them into vocational programs.

Democratic Senator Vince Hughes, who represents the Philadelphia area, took umbrage, saying Eichelberger's comments show a prejudice against inner-city kids and should disqualify him from running the Education Committee.

"Should there be more vocational programs? Absolutely. Should there be more higher education programs? Absolutely. But don't perpetuate this myth, this stereotype, that we can't achieve," Hughes said.

He added that lower scores only happen because inner city schools aren't equally funded.

"If he [Eichelberger] is so damn caring, he should fund the schools the way they deserve to be funded," Hughes said.

In a statement, Eichelberger said his comments were taken out of context, and he may have spoken unartfully.

He said he thinks "every student deserves to be provided with options for their education."

He also noted that the current school system is failing to give kids appropriate guidance--a point Hughes also made.

Eichelberger and Hughes haven't met to talk about the disagreement. Both expressed an unwillingness to make an overture.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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