Politics & Policy

Onorato Backs School Choice For Pennsylvania

Dan Onorato, the Democrat in the Governor’s race who is endorsed by the teacher’s unions, is coming out in support of school choice for Pennsylvanians. Can you feel that? It’s the ground shifting beneath you.

Philadelphia — Almost three months after he lost a hard-fought Democratic primary for governor, state Senator Anthony Williams formally threw his support behind Dan Onorato as the two came together to talk up Williams’ favorite issue: school choice.

Appearing at City Hall here Wednesday afternoon, Onorato voiced support for state grants that parents could put toward private school tuition—a semantic variation of the phrase “school vouchers” that Democrats are often hesitant to use. School choice, including public vouchers to subsidize private education, was a centerpiece of Williams’ campaign and remains integral to his political identity.

“I agree with Tony that Pennsylvania’s education options should include grants so that low income families served by the most academically challenged schools will be able to choose another option for their children,” Onorato said with Williams at his side. “And it’s a proposal that fits in well with the rest of my education agenda.” …

Onorato, the Allegheny County executive, didn’t offer up specifics about how much money could be granted to families, how much it would cost or who would qualify. His campaign policy paper on education doesn’t mention vouchers, and stipulates that funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit should never come “at the expense of resources for public education.”

Change, or have change imposed upon you. That Onorato is coming out for school choice is significant. Tom Corbett, his Republican opponent, is a vouchers supporter, and so for Onorato the Democrat to jump on the bandwagon means a few things.

First, that State Sen. Anthony Williams, Onorato’s primary opponent, remains a political force to be reckoned with, and that he could be very influential in an Onorato governorship. Second, that the school choice debate may be nearing the end as Democrats are increasingly forced to contend with the reality of miserable schools. Lastly, chalk this up as a win for Tom Corbett, as Onorato becomes basically Republican-lite on education.

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