Let’s imagine that today a young girl is born in Philadelphia. We’ll call her Opal. We all wish Opal and her family well. As taxpayers, we support various programs to help her become an educated, successful adult — from daycare to preschool, from kindergarten to high school, college, even graduate school. There are countless taxpayer-funded programs to help ensure that Opal learns all she needs to learn to be all that she can be.

Taxpayers support education because we recognize the value in making sure that every child is given the education, tools and support to be successful, self-sufficient and become a productive citizen. Americans have had this social compact since even before our founding, starting with schools supported by churches or local communities. 

Today, politics, special interests, and money — billions and billions of dollars in education — caused the focus to move away from ensuring that every child learns and that society benefits.

K-12 education is all too often only about politics, special interests — and money. I stress K-12 education because — due to politics, special interests and money — K-12 education operates very differently than every other form of child care and child (and adult) education. Common sense and the best interests of the child are almost totally missing in K-12 education.

When Opal’s mom returns to work, she may take her to daycare. Depending on their family’s income, they’re likely eligible for a tax credit and maybe even a taxpayer-subsidized daycare. Mom can pick any available daycare. It could be a national or regional chain, church or religious community-based, in a home, or even a non-profit. Whatever she chooses, it’s okay with the government — all tax credits and subsidies apply.

A few years from now, Opal’s mom may want her to attend a preschool, learning to tie her shoes, keep stuff in her “cubby,” learn the ABC’s, colors and count to ten. Again depending on income, there are different government tax credits and subsidies available to Opal’s family — and mom can pick any available preschool. It doesn’t matter if it’s run by a non-profit, is located in a public school, or government building, or inside a church, synagogue or mosque.

Let’s look to the future. About eighteen years from now, Opal might apply to attend college. To help her pay for college, depending on her income, she will be eligible for government-backed student loans and grants, and — depending on her major and eventual line of work — some or all of her student loan debt could be forgiven.

It will not matter if she attends college online at Southern New Hampshire University, Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, Brigham Young, Yeshiva or Saint Joseph’s University. Every grant, loan program, and loan-forgiveness program would apply.

Looking back at Opal’s parents’ choices regarding her care and her choice of college, we see countless taxpayer supported programs to help ensure that Opal will be cared for, prepared for school and get a degree to help her find a career, support herself, her family and to be a contributing member of society.

She didn’t “have to” attend a government-run program, center or school. She was allowed to attend private, non-profit, religiously-operated or government run programs and college. Mom and Opal could choose what was best. 

No cries about violations of “church and state;” taxpayer dollars propping-up religion; no one complains that daycare operators are “getting rich off the system;” no one fears that Opal would be “indoctrinated” if she attended a religious daycare, preschool or college. If Opal wanted to attend college in order to become an ordained minister or rabbi, all taxpayer-supported programs would support that also. No ranting that by going to Saint Joseph’s, Opal was “taking taxpayer money away from” CCP,  West Chester or Temple University.

You may have noticed that we skipped over Opal’s years attending K-12 — kindergarten through high school graduation. Why?

Because of politics, special interests, and “grown-ups” fighting over money, Opal must attend her neighborhood public school. The approximately $22,000 that taxpayers (including Opal’s parents) spend educating a Philadelphia student must be used to attend her neighborhood public school.

Couldn’t Opal attend a charter school? In theory, yes. But charter schools in Philadelphia are at their school-district-imposed enrollment limit. There’s a waiting list of at least 30,000 children. And, the Philadelphia School Board — the government agency that votes on whether a new charter school may open — has not allowed a new school to open since 2018. So it’s very likely that Opal won’t get into a charter school.

Couldn’t she attend a Catholic, Jewish, Quaker or private school? Sure, but only if Opal’s family has the money to afford the tuition — on top of the taxes they pay, including their property taxes which are supposed to help pay for education. 

In other words, when it comes to K-12 education, Opal only gets to have a choice if her parents can afford to pay taxes and also tuition.

Apparently, there’s something magical, dangerous  or “special” about K-12 education — it’s somehow different from daycare, preschool and college.

The politicians have decided that parents aren’t allowed to find a K-12 school that works for Opal. Her zip code determines the school she must attend; whether it’s good or bad, new or old, safe or unsafe — even if the Department of Education knows by its own data that literally no fourth grader there is proficient in math or reading.

When it comes to daycare or preschool, government and society trust mom to do what’s best — and politicians will gladly use taxpayer money for any provider. When it comes to college, politicians will use taxpayer dollars to allow Opal to go literally anywhere she can get into. 

But when it comes to K-12 education, politicians and their special interests suddenly become very focused-on the name on the school building; but apparently not very concerned about what goes on inside the building. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania taxpayers will spend approximately $40 billion on public school K-12 education.

Opal has no choice when it comes to her K-12 education. According to the Department of Education, the schools rated in the bottom fifteen percent are “educating” nearly 250,000 each year — almost all of whom are financially trapped with nowhere else to go. 

The Pennsylvania House — with the unanimous support of House Democrats and a few Republicans — voted to cut up to 50 percent of the funding for cyber charter schools, where over 70,000 students attend because their parents or guardians chose that school.

The Pennsylvania House — with the unanimous support of House Democrats — defeated “Lifeline” scholarships, legislation to allow the poorest children trapped in those worst schools to use a scholarship to attend another school.

Parents care about their children and what happens inside the school and whether their child is being educated and prepared to succeed.

Some politicians — pressured by their allies and their funders — seem uniquely focused-on the name on the K-12 school that children like Opal attend — yet, not Opal’s daycare, preschool or college.

Makes you wonder why.

Guy Ciarrocchi is a Senior Fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation. He writes for Broad+Liberty and RealClear Pennsylvania. Follow Guy @PaSuburbsGuy

4 thoughts on “Guy Ciarrocchi: Politicians care about the name on the school. Parents care about what happens in the school.”

  1. Daycare facilities to not have a polyically active union. K-12 educators(?) do. The shame is that most teachers know, in their heart of hearts, that the children they teach and then push on to graduate have no skills whatsoever. I believe some even contemplate the wreck poorly educated kids have on society. Unfortunately, money is the driver, not social good.

  2. The charter school movement in Philadelphia has been capped by the Philadelphia School District because so many parents would opt out if the opportunity was there. It is the prime economically affordable alternative to the failing PSD. Senator Williams is the only Democratic politician in the regio willing to speak the truth. He has shown that he actually puts the well being of his constituents ahead of the personal electoral hurdle it may create for him with donors and other powerful blocs in the party.

  3. Here is a link to the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNtFEEyR4nM
    “Hello America, don’t it seem like we’re neglected
    The government gaining more power from every person infected
    Not from the virus but by the news and the politicians selected
    Yet the establishment getting fed up at the rate at which we rejected
    Their policies, ideologies, designed to keep us divided
    Cuz nothing good really came from any program they provided
    The rate of crime, drugs, education, and the wage gaps all widened
    Under pure elitist, all old decrepit men like president Biden
    How dare you abandon Americans left stranded out in some foreign land
    Lost helicopters, military drones, that’s all because of your poor command
    You say you practice Catholicism but you won’t protect the innocent
    You’d rather have itty bitty babies all butchered up like Venison
    Your nonchalant, foul attitude is evidence that you cheated
    More thumbs down than thumbs up and our comments all get deleted
    Real patriots everywhere you go making sure you’re properly greeted
    With a F Biden, put Trump in there, hope you get message and beat it
    Now we can try to impeach but that ain’t gon’ bring no relief
    Both him and the vice president is a lying, murdering thief
    We’re slowly watching it burn as my heart is filling with grief
    United States being set ablaze by the current traitor in chief
    Yo, ho, all together
    Hoist the colors high
    Heave ho, thieves and beggars
    Never shall we die
    I’m so sick of the administration
    Want us to breathe with no ventilation
    Hiding every bit of information
    Whole House needs a renovation
    Telling us about terrorists
    I know where the real terror is
    In a White House with a bigger fence
    Signs bills grabs little kids
    Speaking of Bills look at what Clinton did
    Lied about it then he did admit it
    Then you wanted to go and let Hillary in
    Corruption never will end
    Every time I go and pick up a pen
    I’m dropping a bomb and it’s bigger than Truman’s
    The government it used to be for the people
    They call us equal they don’t care about humans
    We just want a shot in your arm
    What can it, What can it harm
    They’re pushing it hard
    Are you not alarmed
    Taking a shot at a chance of winning a car
    Making you carry a card
    They never did this with any flu
    I promise that if you don’t learn from past
    You’re gonna get hurt and repeat it too
    Man doesn’t look like a demon to you
    But I know there’s evil God is seeing me through
    Obama’s wife might be a man
    That’s something I got no reason to prove
    How bout we speak for the youth
    Keep with the truth Biden we need him removed
    Come see the light it is beaming on you
    You don’t have a voice? I’m speaking for you
    Yo, ho, all together
    Hoist the colors high
    Heave ho, thieves and beggars
    Never shall we die”

  4. Sorry to blow up the flimsy narrative that the biased media (b&l) keep trying to shove down our throats but just look at state rankings of public schools. It’s practically an election map lol!🤣 How gullible does b&l think their readers are!?


    Blue states like PA, CT, VT, MA sure are doing something well compared to bottom of the heap FL, LA, and AL run by hardcore rightwing idealogues. Maybe rightwing politicians should be less concerned with banning books and censoring curricula in their “culture war” against anything they label “woke” (ie anything triggers them or questions their agenda) and start focusing on the quality of education for kids. Wait, let me guess: worldpopulationreview is woke now too! 😂🤣

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