By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
Update: This story was corrected to differentiate between StudentsFirst PAC and the national StudentsFirst group.
HARRISBURG – Well, at least it’s a passing grade.
But Pennsylvania brought home a report card on Monday that would probably get most students in the state grounded for a week.
That’s because the Keystone State was given a D+ in a national score card released this week by StudentsFirst, a national educational reform organization that was heavily involved in the unsuccessful push to create a public school voucher program in Pennsylvania during the last two years.
To be fair, no state scored higher than the “B-” awarded to Louisiana and Florida, so it’s clear StudentsFirst wasn’t grading on a curve. If it was, Pennsylvania surely would have been higher, since the state ranked 19th overall.
“Pennsylvania has the opportunity to become a leader by enacting innovative education policies. In order to do this, the state must continue to build on the momentum created in 2012,” said Ashley DeMauro, Pennsylvania state director for StudentsFirst, in a statement.
The report card rewards state policy that makes teachers more effective, gives parents and students more educational options and governs spending on educational programs.
“This report card should be used as an education reform roadmap because it charts the path toward truly improving our schools, with a singular focus on students,” said state Rep. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, in a statement.
Aument was the lead sponsor on legislation passed in June that revamped Pennsylvania’s teacher evaluation system to make it more comprehensive.
In a statement, state Rep. Brandon Boyle, D-Philadelphia, also praised the report card as “a thoughtful, well-researched tool that helps lawmakers and parents see where states stand relative to one another on some of the most important measures in education today.”
School choice is still a hot topic in Pennsylvania.
StudentsFirst PAC, which is not related to the national StudentsFirst group that released the report card this week, spent more than $500,000 in Pennsylvania during the 2012 election cycle, with about 60 percent of that total going to Republicans and the rest directed to Democrats, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which tracks campaign contributions.
The group made a big splash back in 2010 when they dumped nearly $5 million into the unsuccessful gubernatorial bid of state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia. StudentsFirst later contributed $27,000 to Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign in 2010 and endorsed Corbett’s school choice agenda in 2011.
Republicans’ effort to expand school choice in Pennsylvania last session resulted in the expansion of an existing educational tax credit program to help more students attend private and religious schools when an effort to create a statewide voucher program failed to garner enough support.
Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.