By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)
Educational choice in Pennsylvania was, at one time, a narrow debate over state funding of charter schools versus their traditional district counterparts.
For the last two years, however, “choice” has encompassed a range of decisions once left exclusively to families. When I began my Senate career four years ago, few could imagine a Pennsylvania where students were forced to wear masks, given access to explicit materials and exposed to advanced gender theory without consent. The relationship between families and teachers, more often than not, enhanced the educational experience, instead of hindering it.
Now, residents across my district tell me the dissolution of their faith in our state-run education system is at an all-time high. Recently, roughly 2,000 people responded to my office’s survey about what concerned them most about our public schools. The vast majority lamented the pervasiveness of political indoctrination and the lack of practical education spreading across our 500 districts like wildfire.
Others worried about worsening teacher shortages, the growing animosity between residents and elected district officials, the lack of support for families choosing homeschooling and the fear of violence leaving their children forever traumatized.
No longer does funding take center stage in our decades-long debate over how best to serve Pennsylvania’s students. Rather, families feel forcibly removed from their children’s educational journey – one they have the right to guide and protect above all else.
That’s why I supported legislation this year to prevent the governor’s administration from imposing regulations on charter schools that would hamstring their ability to serve more students as demand for more choice grows. I also stand opposed to their dogmatic commitment to slashing funding for public charters, most of which serve underprivileged and minority children in our largest cities.
Instead, we boosted funding for disadvantaged families seeking refuge from failing districts by opting for private schools instead. We invested a historic $200 million into school security and behavioral health support to provide a safer learning environment and give families peace of mind. We also made it easier for out-of-state teachers to get certified in Pennsylvania – a crucial step that will ease our shortage and attract more quality educators from across the country.
More must be done.
That’s why I introduced Senate Bill 996 earlier this year, which would establish a Parental Bill of Rights. A dozen other states have enshrined these rights via statutes, though no such protections exist in Pennsylvania.
We need this now more than ever after the constant erosion of parental rights over the past two years. We saw schools shuttered and families left without in-person learning alternatives. Parents have been labeled as domestic terrorists simply for advocating for what they felt was best for their child.
My legislation protects us from overreaching bureaucrats who attempt to silence their voice. When it comes to raising children, families know better than the government.
CONTACT: Doug Zubeck