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Far too many children are trapped in failing schools. Only 21 out of 355 schools in the Pittsburgh region have 90% or more of fifth-graders proficient in both reading and math. 30% of fifth-graders cannot read at their grade level, and similarly 30% cannot do math at grade level. Underperforming schools do not only affect families with school-age children; they affect the whole region and state.
The Pittsburgh area, and eventually the rest of Pennsylvania, will not be able to sustain a work force without a basic education. If a child cannot read at the fifth grade level, where the standard reading level adopted by most newspapers is between the 9th and 12th grade, how will they be economically responsible and productive citizens? The short answer is that they cannot.
Families deserve a choice in schools. They should have the primary input in which school their child will attend, through vouchers. Parents can pick a school based on the individual child’s needs rather then attending a failing school because they are constrained by zip codes and finances. A voucher system will also increase competition. Teachers and schools will compete to become an attractive option, thereby increasing the quality of both the teachers and schools. Such competition is economically efficient. Failing schools will not be able to compete with schools offering better qualified teachers and results. They will close, benefiting children and the school system overall.
S.B 1, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, will use vouchers to allow children to flee failing schools, allowing them an education that will prepare them to be productive citizens later on in life. The bill is a bi-partisan effort. The Commonwealth Foundation found that in 18 out of 19 studies of randomly assigned students, voucher recipients had improved academic achievement and graduation rates. S.B 1 can become a pathway to better education, while not spending extra tax-payer funds. Pennsylvania state legislators should support S.B 1, the Opportunity and Scholarship Act, to give not only children, but the state a secure future.