Thursday, August 4, 2011

Setbacks Yet to Stop Pennsylvania's School Choice Champions from Making Case

We've got good news and bad news.

First, the bad: In the midst of a year that has featured numerous successful legislative efforts to create or expand school choice programs across the country, one of the more disappointing outcomes was in Pennsylvania, where, after strong bipartisan support and the backing of the governor, legislation failed to get a vote before either the full House or Senate.

The good news is that the debate is far from over.

The state's House Education Committee yesterday held a public hearing where both the pro- and anti-voucher sides were able to make their cases, and it was a study in why we believe our side's argument is so much stronger. Here are a few excerpts from a story on the hearing in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Rep. Jim Christiana, sponsor of one bill in the education reform package, said school choice isn't about turning public schools into private ones; it's about letting parents choose where their children will be best educated.
"We're not saying students shouldn't have to take standardized tests. We're just saying the tests should be based on the curriculum you're offering," said Mr. Christiana, R-Beaver. 
..."If the teachers are of an inferior quality, the students will not come," [Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis]told the committee...."These kids are already in schools that are failing. This [current] system that has been in place for 150 years and has worked well for many of us isn't working for these children."
That's at the crux of this argument—we've been doing things one way for so long, and there are still so many low-income kids who are failing in this, the richest and most prosperous country on Earth. As the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." What thousands of kids in struggling urban school districts across the country, who have been told the system was being fixed over and over again?

How many times must they be fooled before we decide that we're not going to maintain the status quo?

Yes, there are countless stories of great progress from once-failing schools that are now outpacing their peers. And yes, innovations in public school have paid dividends for some students who would otherwise be struggling.

But as is perfectly articulated by Rep. Jim Christiana in the clip below, there are thousands more who are not seeing the fruits of the labor in the state' public school system. As he says, his bill isn't perfect, and he's open to improvements. But what he (and we) won't stand for is protecting the status quo:

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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