Monday, August 20, 2012

School Choice Advocate the Key to Reform in the Keystone State

The American Federation for Children today congratulated Joe Watkins, a strong school choice advocate, on his appointment as chief financial recovery officer of the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania.
 Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis made the appointment on Friday, according to the Delaware County Daily Times.

Watkins is chairman of Students First Pennsylvania, an advocacy group that has worked tirelessly to bring strong educational options to Keystone State families.  The group was integral in working with the state legislature and the governor to expand the highly-popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and to create a new scholarship tax credit program for students stuck in the state’s worst-performing schools.

While Watkins will be leaving his position at Students First PA, in his new role, he will be able to provide greater educational opportunity to the nearly 4,500 students in the Chester Upland School District.

Under the Financial Recovery Legislation for Schools, which was enacted alongside the expansion of EITC and creation of the Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, the secretary of education could place the school district in financial recovery status.  As chief financial recovery officer, Watkins has the ability to close schools, cut staff, and transform public schools into charter schools.

Watkins is a pastor of Chris Evangelical Church in Philadelphia and has formerly served for President George H.W. Bush’s administration as associate director of public liaison.

In a press release, Tomalis said:

Joe is a qualified individual who has the ability to assist the Chester Upland School District with long-term financial stability, as well as ensuring the district’s students continue to have access to quality academic programs. I am confident that Joe will provide the district with the guidance and leadership it needs.

The Chester Upland School District is located about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia.  The district served 4,426 students in the 2010, 71.2 percent of whom qualified for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program and 98.4 percent of whom  are identified as minorities.  The School District spent $14,688 per-pupil in 2009, more than $2,300 above the state average.  Only 33.2 percent of 4th graders are proficient in reading and 45.5 percent of 8th graders.  In math, only 53 percent of 4th graders and 16.6 percent of 8th graders are proficient, respectively.

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

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