State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Senator swap in education committee likely to impact school choice vote

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 14, 2017 5:11 AM
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Some have speculated that a personnel change in the Senate Education Committee was politically motivated. (Photo by AP)

 

We know this is a complicated issue. That's why this story includes explanations from the elected officials involved and perspectives from relevant advocates, as well as the likely outcomes of the action taking place. We leave it up to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions.   

(Harrisburg) - The state Senate Education Committee is making a mid-session personnel change--switching out one Republican senator for another.

Erie County Republican Senator Dan Laughlin is officially moving from the Education Committee to the Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee.

His replacement has been announced as Rich Alloway, a fellow Republican from Franklin County.

The move is significant because of Senate Bill 2--a measure would let students in the lowest-performing public schools use the money the state would have spent on their education for alternative school options.

Laughlin is a key opponent, and a big reason the bill failed to get to the Senate floor in October by one vote.

Meanwhile, Alloway is one of the bill's co-sponsors.

Some pro-public school organizations have called foul. The group Education Voters of PA, which often lobbies against charter schools and other school choice efforts, said the committee change is "deeply troubling."

In a statement, Executive Director Susan Spicka said, "for the vote on [Senate Bill 2] and moving forward, the inclusion of Alloway will ensure that the structure of the committee will be generally more in favor of anti-public education, pro-school privatization legislation."

Laughlin maintains his request to switch committees was totally unrelated to Senate Bill 2--a defense GOP Education Committee Chair John Eichelberger backs up.

"[Laughlin] said that he had worked on the committee to try to look out for the Erie School District's problems. Those were addressed, so he'd like to move on and do some other work on another committee," he said.

But Eichelberger confirms Laughlin's move delayed a planned reconsideration of Senate Bill 2 this week.

"We're still looking at the bill, and we're waiting for personnel changes to the committee that have been discussed," he said Tuesday, before Laughlin's move was finalized.

Alloway didn't respond to a request for comment, nor did staff for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, who has final say on committee assignments and confirmed the switch.

Governor Tom Wolf has previously said he opposes "any program that diverts funding away from public schools."

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