Gov. Corbett's education secretary Tomalis is leaving

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HARRISBURG -- Another member of Gov. Corbett's Cabinet is on his way out.

Education Secretary Ron Tomalis is looking for another job and does not intend to stay on past summer as Mr. Corbett's education czar, two senior administration officials told the Philadelphia Inquirer on condition of anonymity.

An official timetable has yet to be set for his exit, but those sources said Mr. Tomalis would likely stay in his $149,804 job until after the July 1 deadline for getting a state budget passed and signed into law.

He would become the fifth Cabinet member to leave since Mr. Corbett took office in January 2011. Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander, Environmental Secretary Michael Krancer, Health Secretary Eli N. Avila, and Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner have left in the past year.

Mr. Tomalis declined to be interviewed for this article. Mr. Corbett's chief spokesman, Kevin Harley, also would not comment.

But the administration sources said a key to Mr. Tomalis' decision was a growing behind-the-scenes tension between him and some members of the governor's inner circle. The sources would not elaborate.

As the person running one of the biggest departments in the state government, with a $10.5 billion budget, Mr. Tomalis is one of the more visible members of the administration.

He has worked on a number of high-profile issues that have became political flashpoints, such as Mr. Corbett's 2011 push to implement school tuition-voucher legislation. That was widely perceived as a fumbled effort, with many pro-voucher legislators complaining that the governor did not come out strongly enough on the issue, which ended up withering on the legislative vine.

The voucher issue set the administration -- and Mr. Tomalis -- on an early collision course with the state's largest teachers union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which opposes vouchers. That relationship, especially after Mr. Corbett's cuts to public school funding in his first two years in office, has yet to be mended.

Mr. Tomalis also pushed for a 2012 law that changes how public school teachers are evaluated and took strong steps after revelations of possible cheating on the state's standardized tests.

In 2011, he ordered forensic reviews of all exams since 2009, with special attention to Philadelphia. And he called for a probe of allegations of widespread cheating on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. After he imposed unprecedented security measures on the 2012 exams, many scores dropped.

He also has cracked down on cyber charter schools, which his department oversees. Mr. Tomalis moved to revoke two such Philadelphia schools' charters -- one for disregarding education needs of students and misspending tax dollars (the school agreed to close), the other for not meeting requirements for online instruction. That school is fighting to remain open.

Mr. Tomalis served from 1995 to 2001 as a top education aide to Republican Gov. Tom Ridge. From 2001 to 2004, he was in President George W. Bush's education department, where he managed implementation of the act popularly known as No Child Left Behind.

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Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Martha Woodall contributed.


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