Gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett, with former Florida governor Jeb Bush in tow, announced his proposed educational policy for Pennsylvania on Monday in York City.
Mirroring some of the ideas Bush implemented in Florida, Corbett said he wants to increase school accountability, provide more options for students and better track school funding.
Corbett, a Republican who is the state's attorney general, is running for governor against Samuel Rohrer in the May primary election.
Corbett used Lincoln Elementary as a platform to announce his "Agenda for Excellence" plan. Lincoln was a city school converted a decade ago into a charter school.
Corbett and Bush, who served as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, started off with a roundtable discussion with students and staff about charters.
"It's nice to have the option," Corbett said in support of charters. Charter schools are operated by an independent group, but funded by the district that approved the charter.
Bush pointed out people often mistake charters for a private school, a false public perception Lincoln Principal Erin Holman said she constantly battles.
"They're as public as any public school," Bush said.
Afterward, Bush and Corbett did an impromptu visit with some reading coaches and English as a second language teachers. Bush told them his initiative in Florida to get reading coaches in every school was "the best thing" that was done to improve reading skills.
They continued on to a press conference for Corbett to lay out his "child-focused" plan on education.
Among Corbett's proposals:
---Create an independent charter school board that would oversee all charter schools.
---Develop a school grading system that would grade schools on a traditional "A" to "F" scale based on student performance on state tests and some other measures. The system's primary purpose is to "better explain educational success" to parents.
Bush said his similar system in Florida helped lead to improved test scores.
"If it's controversial, then so be it," Bush said of grading schools. ---Increase safety by requiring schools to update clear codes of conduct and emergency plans, and broaden the list of criminal offenses that bar employment in schools.
---Standardize teacher evaluations around the state and better link evaluations to test scores. Evaluations have been a controversial topic locally and statewide.
"I'd think teachers will want to be the best teachers they can be," said Corbett, who said he previously taught ninth grade for a year.
Bush said increased teacher accountability is gaining national, bipartisan traction now.
"There's a new ally in this, and his name is President Obama," Bush said.
Standardized evaluations and a school grading system in Pennsylvania, he believes, will lead to better accountability.
"There should be different consequences for chronic mediocrity," Bush said.---Better track how state funding is used, and emphasize spending that money in the classroom.
"We want to see a return on our investment," Corbett said.
-- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431, ashaw@york dispatch.com or twitter.com/ydblogwork.