By Victor Skinner
PHILADELPHIA – Nearly half of all schools recently listed as failing by the Pennsylvania Department of Education are managed by the School District of Philadelphia.
District superintendent Williams Hite Jr. has already proposed closing all but two of the district’s 177 schools on the state’s failing list.
That’s good news for students who have been forced to attend the lackluster schools. Even better – students in the city’s failing schools (as well as other failing schools around the state) can now escape with the help of the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program.
Students at 406 schools on the PDE’s list of bad schools can transfer to different schools and their parents are reimbursed by the state for the cost. Nearly a quarter-million students in the lowest 15 percent of schools are eligible for the program, the Philadelphia Tribune reports.
Families with an income of no more than $75,000, plus $12,000 for each dependent, are eligible for up to $8,500 per student for tuition. Special education students get $15,000. Businesses that contribute to the cost of the scholarships are provided tax breaks by the state, the Tribune reports.
The scholarship program has the potential to change the lives of thousands of students by giving them a chance to gain a decent education. So naturally, the Philadelphia teachers union hates the program.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan uses the union’s tried and true financial excuse to justify the poor performance of the city’s schools.
“If the Corbett administration keeps cutting funding to public education, we can expect to see even more schools on their list of ‘low performers,’” Jordan said in a press release, according to the Tribune.
“Schools cannot get better when they are consistently deprived of needed funds for materials, programs and supports for students and educators,” he complained.
Students, however, often get a better and cheaper education in non-government schools.
If the Philadelphia school district and its teachers union can’t provide a proper education for students with the generous resources they already receive, then it only makes sense to encourage more kids to transfer to schools that can.