WEST CHESTER (January 25) – At a Tuesday hearing, State Senator Andy Dinniman harshly criticized the Corbett Administration for its lack of action regarding the Chester Upland School District, which is on the brink of collapse.

Dinniman, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, told Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis that the Commonwealth’s willingness to let the Chester Upland School District fall into fiscal crisis casts serious doubt on the Corbett Administration’s commitment to poorer school districts specifically and public education generally.

Tuesday’s education hearing focused on the Chester Upland School District, other school districts in financial distress, and the administration’s response.

“In the beginning, I worked with the administration because I thought it was seeking to reform education for poorer students. But I have seen over the last several months that that’s not the case at all,” Dinniman said. “The administration is not interested in poorer students being educated in this Commonwealth.”

Dinniman said that is particularly troublesome because “It’s a constitutional mandate to stand up for public schools.”

Dinniman specifically asked Tomalis for an update on the Education Department’s promise to propose reforms to the state law governing distressed schools and questioned the viability of components of the proposal that have been drafted.

Dinniman also said Education Department officials provided the first draft of a new distressed-schools law in Spring of 2011. Education Department officials provided the second draft to Republican lawmakers in early November but not to Senator Dinniman and fellow Democrats until Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, and only after repeated requests. Dinniman’s request for the listing of school districts in or near fiscal crisis has yet to be provided.

Dinniman said the Corbett Administration’s cuts to funding for all public schools and particularly poorer public schools, plus its refusal to provide him requested information regarding school districts in fiscal crisis, leads him to conclude that the Corbett Administration wants to end public education, not reform it.

Therefore, when the Corbett-favored school voucher plan comes before the Senate, “I have to oppose it,” Dinniman said.

Majority Education Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Piccola joined Dinniman in questioning and criticizing the Department of Education’s handling of the Chester Upland School District – specifically its decision to voluntarily end its previous role providing financial oversight of the district and its expenses.

For more information contact Senator Dinniman’s West Chester Office at (610) 692-2112, or e-mail mindars@pasenate.com.