HARRISBURG, Pa., June 30, 2023 — Yesterday, Pennsylvania State Sen. Tony Williams—a Democrat representing Philadelphia—delivered a rousing speech supporting Lifeline Scholarships. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Williams addressed the challenges and shortcomings of his district’s failing public education system. He called on lawmakers to stand with Gov. Josh Shapiro in favor of Lifeline.
With Matt Bradford—a representative from a wealthy, predominantly white suburb—singlehandedly blocking the budget deal, Sen. Williams spoke for his constituents in desperate need of a lifeline.
Watch the full speech here:
Williams, a proud Democrat, shared his personal connection to education, highlighting his family’s experience with public schools and the issues he sees with them. According to Williams:
“I’m a registered Democrat who’s proud to be a Democrat. My mother is a retired public school teacher and administrator who lives on a modest pension from that public school system in Philadelphia County. I have countless aunts and uncles who are principals and educators in the Philadelphia public school system. My sister—my older sister—went to Girls High for most of her career, and I went to public school for almost nine years and then went off to a private school.
“Those of us understand why [public education] was created—because we didn’t have a system in this country that made it possible for everyone to rise to their values. … The conflict for me, though, is that the creation of that system is not consistent with what it does today.”
Williams stressed the importance of focusing on the needs of children and parents—particularly minorities—and criticized the government for failing to do so:
“I’m here to say, though, that there are children drowning in this moment. … [There was a] mother who was in my office literally last week crying because her child had to go to a building that’s called a public school, that had a zero number in terms of proficiency in math and [had record assaults] in that building. She cannot wait anymore for us to debate about funding. … Another 20 years, another family who knows that their child will not be well served by that system.
“[In the] Philadelphia public school system, about 85 percent of the population are black and brown children. But of that population, about 90 percent are in poverty. And there’s not one neighborhood high school that meets the average levels of proficiency.
“Guess what? Those of us who have means, who are elected, send our kids to private schools, parochial schools, and magnet schools.”
Williams concluded by calling for school choice, including charter schools, magnet schools, and the passage of Lifeline Scholarships, to ensure that all children receive a quality education.
“I express myself as only a humble plea that, tonight, we do something on behalf of those thousands of parents [who] can’t afford to do it themselves.
“They need help, and they need it now. For those reasons, I’m supporting this [Lifeline Scholarship] legislation.”
The Commonwealth Foundation applauds Williams’s support for Lifeline Scholarships and his dedication to bolstering education for Pennsylvania’s students in need.
If you would like to learn more about Lifeline Scholarships, Pennsylvania’s budget process, or the stories of families impacted by school choice, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Commonwealth Foundation’s Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield, Vice President Stephen Bloom, and Fellow Guy Ciarrocchi are all available for comment and/or interviews. Contact: Christian Stellakis by email at [email protected] or by phone at (315) 720-3561.
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