In Pennsylvania, we are having an SOS moment. But this distress call is to “Save Our Students” when it comes to education. And as we learned at a recent Senate Education Committee hearing, time is of the essence to throw a lifeline to our most vulnerable students trapped in consistently failing schools.

There was hope for students in the state budget as negotiated by Gov. Josh Shapiro and passed with bipartisan support from Democrats like Rep. Amen Brown and Sen. Anthony Williams, who have been very vocal about the positive impact this would have on kids. This was a win for families driven by the Republican leadership in the House and in the Senate from Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward.

The bad news is Gov. Shapiro vetoed the scholarship program he supported multiple times since taking office, breaking another promise he made to Pennsylvanians. Why is the governor breaking his promise to the children and people of Pennsylvania? Because he buckled to a small group of radical Democrat representatives who prioritized special interests and their own jobs over what’s right for our kids.

With Gov. Shapiro turning his back on our students and vetoing the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (P.A.S.S.) scholarship program, students like Ian Torres of Reading Senior High School will remain trapped in a failing school. The worst part of this mess is that our most vulnerable students were only asking for a $100 million program or just 0.2 percent of this year’s budget.

Despite continued and historic investments made in education, including increased public education funding in the current budget, we still aren’t getting the desired results. The test scores prove it.

PSSA scores revealed 77 percent of Pennsylvania’s eighth graders are not proficient in math, and 44 percent are not proficient in language arts. We need to do better – and kids in failing schools don’t have time to wait for House Democrats to go on a “Save Our Schools” tour to try and cover-up their kowtowing to special interests.

One parent, Sara Torres, confirmed that too few dollars from the district’s budget are invested in the classroom experience. If a scholarship program were enacted in Pennsylvania, she’d pull her son, Ian, from Reading Senior High School and enroll him in a different school immediately. While she and her son think many of the Reading School Districts’ teachers are “some of the best,” she couldn’t say the same for the education and the system in place.

Regrettably, Sara Torres’ story is all too common when it comes to parents’ concerns for the state of education for their children. “While they figure it out,” her son Ian will graduate, and she doesn’t know of many lawyers who graduate from Reading.”

We know more money isn’t preparing our students for real world opportunities. We know the one-size-fits-all school systems are leaving too many students behind. We know one year of learning loss can translate into thousands of dollars in lost lifetime earnings. We know two out of three Pennsylvanians support school choice for students enrolled in the worst performing schools. We know we need education options for parents and students now.

Continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is not a solution. It’s wasting your money and more concerning, it’s jeopardizing future generations of Pennsylvanians. Pennsylvania’s education SOS is about “Saving Our Students.”

The time is now for education options in Pennsylvania.

Martina White represents Northeast Philadelphia as the State Representative for the 170th district.

2 thoughts on “Rep. Martina White: It’s time to ‘Save Our Students’”

  1. B and L has covered this about a kajillion times and I still have questions.
    1) I’ve seen that the scholarships are available for four years. So how do younger kids benefit? Do they just go back to their old school?
    2). Where will the funding come from AFTER this year? Tuition will go up at these schools so the program will be more expensive over time. Where is that money coming from? If it comes out of the public school budgets, then the kids still at the failing schools are going to be worse off than ever.
    3) Do the private schools HAVE to take these students? What if they don’t want to or simply can’t because of their own enrollment numbers? Are there enough alternative schools in especially rural areas to accommodate those who want to leave? Who is on the hook for the transportation??
    4) Is scholarship renewal at all tied to student performance? If a student does not do well academically in their new school do they keep the scholarship?
    I read one version of this bill (I think there are a few now) that didn’t address any of this and the issue is more complicated than these repeated columns basically saying the same thing over and over again acknowledge.

  2. Thank you Rep. White. The rejection of vouchers and/or Lifeline scholarship is simply a way to maintain the public school monopoly on education in the poorest and poorest performing districts, and a desire to place political ideology above student welfare. Methinks they doth protest too much when they say that the solution to failing schools is more money poured into failing institutions, not better alternatives. They are afraid to lose the monopoly and the power. Of course they deny it and lash out, instead, at choice advocates, calling them religious zealots, bigots or my laughable favorite, “elites.” A majority of families of color want the option that Lifeline Scholarships would provide. To deny them that option is reprehensible.

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