Parents and Students Will Have Options

Senator Williams speaks at the announcement to keep open four Catholic high schools.

State Sen. Anthony H. Williams issued the following statement to address the Archdiocese’s decision to keep open the four archdiocesan high schools slated for closure:

“This is an historic day for education in our region. I congratulate the 28,000 students and their parents who faced school closures; who spoke loudly and made their voices heard. I also congratulate the Archdiocese for being open to finding solutions to its financial crisis that does not penalize children.

“I also want to gratefully acknowledge our corporate citizens, foundations and others who recognized that our educational ecosystem was at risk and dared to get involved.

“I am especially pleased that West Catholic, which many of the students in the 8th Senatorial District attend, and is one of the best schools in West Philadelphia, will remain open.

“However, our collective work is not finished.

“Education in Philadelphia is a three pronged system – public, private and parochial schools. None can operate effectively without the others and parents must have options best suited to the educational needs of their children. I encourage the Archdiocese and the School District of Philadelphia to work collaboratively moving forward to develop a long-term viable education plan that addresses the needs of all school children.

“Of the 20,000 students who enter the Philadelphia Public School system every year, only 10 percent of the students who enter kindergarten in Philadelphia will graduate from high school. And while the high school graduation rate in Philadelphia has increased in recent years from 48% in 2002 to 57% in 2010, it is still far from acceptable.”

“According to a 2010 Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative Report, 62% of public school parents have actively considered sending their children to charter, Catholic, or private schools.

“We can no longer wait until ‘tomorrow to take a holistic approach to how we educate our children. For every “tomorrow,” we lose another generation of young people; some to drugs; some to crime and violence; some to prison, but none to responsible, productive members of society.

“We often talk about gun violence and crime as public health issues and we need to add education to that list as studies show that poverty is a root cause of poorly performing schools. Most schools with high dropout rates are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods and with high proportions of African American and Hispanic students.

“Education is also the civil rights issue of our time. Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer, yet, too often, educational opportunity and achievement are linked to race, neighborhood and zip code. We are losing children because of who they are and where they live.

“Pennsylvania is required to provide public education of a certain standard. Our responsibility is to the child, not to the system, nor to the adults. We’ve already left too many children behind. Parents need to take more control over their student’s education and students need to care about their futures. Today proves that we are headed in the right direction.”

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