Kevin McCorry

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

A powerful coalition of Pennsylvania lawmakers is promoting a forthcoming education savings account (ESA) bill that would allow hundreds of thousands of students in the state to use public money to pay for private school tuition.

The proposal could dramatically alter the state's K-12 education landscape, potentially siphoning away about a fifth of the state's overall support for public schools.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

What little difference four years can make.

Students at Kenderton Elementary have seen five principals and heard countless broken promises in fewer years.

Ian Willms / for Keystone Crossroads

 

A diverse group of very young students sit cross-legged for story time at Rose Avenue elementary in Toronto.  The kids are joyful, yet focused, and the group is small enough that the two teachers in the room are able to give one-on-one attention when needed.  

Ian Willms / for Keystone Crossroads

When Erica Brunato decided to become a teacher in Ontario, she knew the road ahead would be long and steep.

“We all knew coming into this program — even just applying for the program — what it was going to be like, right? And I said, ‘I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl.’ So that didn’t stop me,” she said.

Compared to Pennsylvania, teacher preparation in Ontario is more rigorous and the job market is much more competitive.

Ian Willms / For Keystone Crossroads

 

Eight year-old Sirvat Labiba emigrated with her family from Bangladesh to Ontario, Canada when she was three. She lives in the Crescent Town neighborhood of Toronto with her mother, father and little sister in a high-rise apartment tower.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

School district enrollment levels have dramatically shifted in Pennsylvania over the past 25 years.

In northwest Pennsylvania, along the edge of Lake Erie, you'll find the city of Erie.

There, the superintendent of the more than 12,000-student district has forwarded a plan that's causing a stir — calling for leaders to consider shutting down all of the district's high schools and sending students to the wealthier, whiter, suburban districts.

Why?

Superintendent Jay Badams says it's a "matter of fairness."

Emma Lee / WHYY

 

With its new student-weighted school funding formula, Pennsylvania took a big step forward this year to begin to correct decades of inequities.

Bastiaan Slabbers / Newsworks

Pennsylvania continues to wrestle with an essential question for the future of its people and its economy: What should a high school diploma mean, and what should it take to earn one?

Matt Rourke / AP

 

A survey of Pennsylvania superintendents and school business officials offers a bleak portrait of the state of education in the commonwealth.

Erie School District

Dozens of Pennsylvania's most distressed school districts are finding it harder to borrow money in the wake of the state's historically protracted budget impasse.

In December, as lawmakers entered a sixth month without a state budget, S&P Global withdrew its rating of Pennsylvania's "intercept" program, through which the state guarantees loans for school districts that don't have high credit ratings.

Jessica Kourkounis

 

The advocacy group Public Interest Law Center says the commonwealth's own data point to the need for at least $3.2 billion in added state funding.

When the state's bipartisan basic education funding commission published its report last year, it came up with a new formula for distributing new state education dollars. The formula acknowledges that districts face added burdens, for instance, when educating students in poverty, or those still learning English.

This winter, high school junior Jameria Miller would run to Spanish class. But not to get a good seat.

"The cold is definitely a distraction," Jameria says. "We race to class to get the best blankets."

Because the classroom has uninsulated metal walls, Jameria's teacher would hand out blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District — an impoverished, predominantly African-American school system situated among Philadelphia's inner-ring suburbs.