By Rep. Martina White
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 (PASS) 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% 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 District’s 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. ••
Rep. Martina White (R-170th dist.) is Secretary of the House Republican Caucus.