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The battle for school choice in Pennsylvania is still raging, but some of the heroes of the state's school choice movement have already emerged. They are already demonstrating how to win a debate with the power of ideas, if the audience is there to receive the message.
In this week's Jewish Exponent, State Senator Anthony Williams Hardy of Philadelphia made the case for Senate Bill 1:
Sen. Jeff Piccola and I recently introduced Senate Bill 1 providing "Opportunity Scholarships" to low-income families. These $9000 opportunity scholarships would allow parents to send their children to a better-performing public school or pay tuition and enroll their child in a non-public school for less than half of the public money already being spent to send the child to a failing public school.
Reforms advancing similar provisions in Washington, D.C. and Florida have not only been popular, but also academically successful and economically efficient. Pennsylvania could use more academic success and economic efficiency. The state has too long been ignoring its silent education crisis by touting the Department of Education's statistics which suggest that elementary and middle school students in Pennsylvania perform above the national average.
Citizens of the Keystone State should not be deceived. School performance is not measured by how students do when they enter into school, but by how they perform when they come out of it. The state's Commonwealth Foundation reports that Pennsylvania students' SAT performance is almost one hundred points below the national median and more spending during the last gubernatorial administration has not significantly changed this.
With a new election and new voices calling for improving Pennsylvania's ailing education system, it is time for representatives and supporters of real reform to take the initiative and promote legislation which spends taxpayers' money better rather than more. Pennsylvania has a unique opportunity to achieve the initiatives that conservatives have waited for years to achieve. Reform-minded politicians may lead the way on this effort, but reform that makes a difference also requires the support and activism of concerned citizens. Join our effort today.