A Better Strategy for Students in the “City of Champions”

If there’s one team that has stopped the “City of Champions” from having more Super Bowl championships, it’s the Evil Empire from up north: the New England Patriots. And if there’s one player who personifies the Steelers’ biggest obstacle, it’s Tom Brady.

Every time the Steel Curtain sits back and tries the same defensive tactics against TB12, Brady tortures Steelers Nation with the same, expected results over the Black-n-Gold. And yet, whenever the Black-n-Gold adapts to what the Patriots throw at them, changing up tactics with what’s needed to win the game—they get the best of Brady (like they did last year).

Sometimes, the best way to win is to make a needed change instead of sticking with the status quo that clearly isn’t working. Just like a struggling Steelers team does, Penn Hills School District needs to change in order to win. Once a thriving district, Penn Hills is now plagued by $170 million in debt, mainly due to irresponsible decisions on the part of leadership.

Over the last decade, “reckless financial decisions” have “plunged the district into an accelerating downward financial spiral that has resulted in the district’s economic ruin” according to a grand jury investigation into the district. In addition to the financial troubles, the district consistently ranks in the bottom 15% of Pennsylvania districts academically.

This is another example of students losing in the “City of Champions.” Like kids in Pittsburgh Public Schools, Penn Hills students need a solution immediately—not years down the road while we risk jeopardizing another generation of students.

Pennsylvania is primed to provide Penn Hills students with a good education now. The Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs just received $25 and $5 million respective increases in the state budget. These programs encourage corporate citizenship to support student scholarships in exchange for tax credits. With over 50,000 students denied these opportunities just last year, the EITC/OSTC expansion will likely allow students who have previously been denied a scholarship a gateway to hope.

Other reforms expand education equality, such as education scholarship accounts (ESAs) that give parents flexible and customizable funds to use in a variety of ways on their child’s education. Through ESAs, families have more control in choosing the academic options that are best for their child.

Providing Penn Hills students with the opportunity to receive tax credit scholarships or use ESAs to attend a better school is crucial to a successful community. Not every student thrives on the public school track—and that’s okay. With school choice, students who would otherwise be trapped in failing or insufficient schools have the opportunity to succeed in other academic settings.

If you think families should be able to escape dysfunctional and failing school districts that spend recklessly—changing up the status quo in order to win— then you’ll understand why the EITC/OSTC expansion and ESAs are important to students across Western Pennsylvania.

Sticking to the same strategy against a familiar foe shouldn’t be the Steelers’ way on the field. It shouldn’t be how we deal with students’ potential in classrooms across the Keystone State, either.