Tuesday, January 25, 2011

School Choice Week

Sunday, January 23, marks the start of School Choice week.

According to the American Federation for Children, there has been an 86% increase in student enrollment in school choice programs over the past five years.

When we look at Pennsylvania, we find that 1,821,146 children are in K-12 schools at a cost of $11,098 per pupil.

Pennsylvania allows charter schools. School Boards, the PA Dept. of Education for Virtual Schools, and the Philly School Reform Commission all have the power to authorize a charter school.

Pennsylvanians can also take advantage of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program which allows lower income household students to attend the public or private school of their choice. There is also a corporate deduction for contributions to scholarship organizations or educations improvement organizations.

Education of our children should be a truly non-partisan issue. With the entrance of public sector education unions in the debate, it very frequently becomes quite political.

Public school teachers seem to view any choice on the part of the parents of the children they are charged with educating as a threat to their very existence. They cry out that if parents have a choice in where their children are educated public school systems will be bankrupted, children will be hurt due to a lack of accountability in private schools, be indoctrinated into right-wingers, and that all the smart kids will leave for greener pastures in private schools.

Some even venture into Constitutional Law saying that because some schools have a religious identity, the perceived separation between church and state will be violated. They seem to gloss over the fact that Pell Grants, the GI Bill, and federal daycare vouchers can all be used at religious institutions.

The fact is that we presently subsidize many failures on the part of the public education system. Parents rightfully want their children out of failing schools and frankly, out of harms way in some cases. Every good parent tries to give their child the best opportunity and the greatest number of resources to achieve success in life. If a public school doesn’t provide that, why should parents be forced to keep their child in a failing school simply based on their zip code?

It is unfair to parents and an absolute detriment to our children. Parents should be empowered to make choices to meet the educational needs of their children.

A good step towards this goal is a SB 1. State Senators Jeff Piccola (R) and Anthony Williams (D) have proposed SB 1 which will expand School Choice in Pennsylvania by allowing parents of children under the poverty line to take the state share of the educational dollars spent on their child and divert that money to a private, religious, or public school of their choice.

This is a great step toward giving parents real choices about their children’s education.

1 comment:

Reach said...

Great post! Our organization has been fighting for school choice in PA since '91.

The REACH (Road to Educational Achievement through Choice) Alliance is Pennsylvania’s grassroots coalition for school choice. REACH was created to advance educational options in Pennsylvania, first leading the 1991 effort to pass a statewide school choice plan in the state Senate. The bill was later defeated on a procedural vote in the House. Building on the momentum for parental choice, REACH built a powerful network of statewide members and coalition partners from non-public education, faith, business, parent and labor organizations. In 1995 and 1999, REACH led the grass roots efforts to support Gov. Ridge's school choice legislation, and secured an historic victory for parents with the 2001 passage of the Educational improvement Tax Credit. REACH has also been a consistent advocate for charter schools.