Tom Smith – Bishop McCort

Tom Smith, Bishop McCort Catholic High School principal and chief administrative officer, talks on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

Tom Smith, principal and chief administrative officer at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, will testify virtually Friday in front of the state Senate Education Committee as part of the education reform hearings this month.

“I think we need education reform in Pa., and to give families options,” he said.

Smith is a proponent of school choice and intends to share his advocacy with the members of the committee.

The private school principal would rather see tax dollars provided to families, instead of school districts, to allow parents to decide where they want to send their children.

He said this is a push to level the playing field for education.

One option, he suggested, to replace the typical funding method is to split the total cost to educate a student between the home district and the school of choice.

Smith gave the example of the Greater Johnstown School District, which spends around $16,000 per student, and Bishop McCort, which has a tuition of about $7,000 per student.

He said the student cost at his school would be covered and the rest would be sent back to Greater Johnstown.

Smith is also in favor of programs, such as the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, and added that there are several options the state could explore regarding school choice.

Smith said he’s an advocate for all forms of education, but one of his main goals with this advocacy is giving students who can’t afford the tuition a chance to attend McCort.

“Let’s do what’s best for the kids instead of the institution,” he said.

Friday’s hearing is the third of three for Pennsylvania’s Senate committee that started April 12 regarding the central part of the state.

State Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, who sits on the committee, said the group has heard from a variety of education officials and advocates throughout the month.

The most recent was held Monday and focused on the eastern portion of the commonwealth.

The purpose of these hearings is to discuss “school reforms involving accountability for all schools, school choice, charter schools and other potential changes to benefit students,” according to a press release.

“One of my biggest concerns is the inequity within education to access broadband,” Ward said. “With the pandemic it has highlighted even more the need for access.”

Following the hearings, the members are set to work on legislation to address comments made.

Friday’s hearing will be live-streamed at 10 a.m. and can be accessed by visiting www.legis.state.pa.us and navigating to the Senate’s schedule.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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