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School choice debate continues in Pennsylvania

School funding debate continues in Pennsylvania
School funding debate continues in Pennsylvania 01:58

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- All along the political spectrum, most people agree: there are good and bad traditional public schools, and there are good and bad charter schools.

How do you ensure more of the good and less of the bad of both kinds? That's where Republicans and Democrats differ.

"Giving these families a choice gives them an immediate opportunity to change the outcome for that child," state Rep. Craig Williams said.

Williams advocates for what is called lifeline scholarships, which would allow parents of kids in low-performing school districts to use state funding to send their kids to private schools. Most of the focus at this House Republican Caucus meeting was on expanding charter school opportunities. Republicans say a good education requires money but not only money.

"We should be also focused on how we can spend it wisely, not just how much we are spending," Rep. Josh Kail, a Republican, said.

Kail chairs the policy caucus.

"Regardless of zip code, a child should have access to quality education," Kail said. "School choice allows us to have that."

Choice -- a word you hear often from folks more often Republicans than Democrats in favor of further empowering the charter school movement. So then, does that mean folks on the other side are against school choice?"

"There are people who are OK with school choice," state Rep. Joe Ciresi, a Democrat, said, "but believe there has to be a more equitable way to do school choice."

Ciresi, a former school board member, believes charter schools get special treatment.

"We had two board meetings a month for the public where you can ask any question on anything," Ciresi said. "For the 12 years I sat on that board, we never once met with the charter school or even knew when they were having a meeting or was able to ask questions. All we knew was we had to write that million-plus dollar check every year."

Ciresi introduced this legislation last session to require more charter school accountability. It didn't go anywhere. Right now no legislation is going anywhere as the House prepares to enter February without a basic agreement about how to run the chamber this session.

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