Friday, May 14, 2010

Tony Williams

DFER's Ed Reformer of the month is PA State Senator Tony Williams, who's closing the gap fast and could well be PA's next governor after the election next week.  Below is an editorial who published – here's an excerpt (and below is DFER's email blast, where you can support him at:

…there are few professions I hold in higher esteem than teaching. My mother is a retired public school educator, and watching her dedication to her students made me realize what it really means to commit to a child's future. 

Good teachers and good principals make for good schools.

Unfortunately, good schools are in short supply in some parts of our state, and those shortcomings wind up costing all of us.

If you look at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and even some rural counties, you'll see that we are paying the taxes, but the outcomes aren't great. Some would argue that it's just a matter of needing more money. But we've continued to pour dollars into systems with minimal returns. Sometimes, the schools aren't even safe, let alone adequate. Meanwhile, students are left to languish, at a time when global competition is peaking.

We can combat that. We can increase the educational opportunities from which parents can choose—and I mean all parents, not just those with means who are already taking another route. Options should be afforded to anyone who pays taxes, regardless of zip code or income.

Traditional public schools are part of that options package, but so are charter, magnet, cyber, vocational, technical, trade and other schools. If a school is giving us a return on our investment, we should support, nurture and grow it. If it doesn't, we should shut it down.

But at the end of the day, it should be parents, not bureaucrats, who decide which environment is best for their children. And once they've made that decision, money the state makes available for that child's education should follow him or her to that school.

Nothing would have to change for parents whose children attend top-notch public schools. But for parents whose local public school is unsafe or unproductive, there needs to be a way out. I know the difference that decision can make.

I attended public schools. But by the 8th grade, my mother was so frustrated by the unsafe neighborhoods I had to travel to get to school and lack of stimulation once I was there that she found a scholarship for me to attend a private boarding school. Of course, if it had been supplied by the state, it may have been called a voucher. I call it a lifesaver because the experience at that school changed my life. I was lucky.

Unfortunately, not every child is that fortunate. And too often, and for too many, achievement is a matter of chance, not design.


Williams, Candidate for Pennsylvania Gov., Named

Ed Reformer of the Month for May

State Senator Tony Williams, who currently represents parts of Philadelphia and Delaware county, is an insurgent candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania and one of the country's most vocal advocates for educational change. With the May 18th primary fast approaching, Williams needs your help to finish strong.

Williams is a former businessman who now chairs the Senate's State Government Committee and is a member of the Education Committee. He is a popular legislator and consensus builder who happens to view education as the foremost civil rights challenge of our era. "Your zip code should not define the kind of education you're able to receive," he said recently. "I believe in all options. I believe in supporting charter schools, magnet, trade schools, home schooling, and I also believe in allowing for parental choice."

In one of the country's most diverse and populous states, and one with some profound educational challenges, traditional education interests are working hard to ensure that Williams' arguments don't see the light of day. As we approach the election, it is critical that we help him advance education equality by helping with this final push.

Please join us in supporting Williams' run for governor (and along the way sending a strong message about the importance of education reform) by contributing to his campaign today via DFER's ActBlue page:



Why I support school choice

by Anthony Williams

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