A Philadelphia state senator is proposing legislation aimed at helping students in Pennsylvania’s failing schools. Senator Vincent Hughes wants to establish "Victory Academies" at the 144 schools statewide that have been identified as "failing." The plan includes smaller class size, longer school days, Saturday classes and summer school...
"A lot of these schools are in communities that have a lot of other issues going on. So we want to relocate a lot of social service programs and put them in the schools as well thereby increasing the number of adults and adult support systems in the classroom." Hughes says this would help the students and the community.
The Democratic Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee says the funding hurdle for Victory Academies is not as high as one might think because relocating social service programs into schools also relocates the dollars they bring with them.
Hughes notes that many successful countries have school years that go 200, 220 and even 240 class days compared to 180 in Pennsylvania and "consequently they're outpacing our kids in Pennsylvania and in the U.S."
He says one problem is keeping up the education momentum..."When schools close in June and reopen in September, many kids aren't spending any time during the summer studying on their books, keeping up on their reading, so they lose a lot during the summer time. That's one of the reasons we want to have a lot of academic activity going on during the course of the summer."
Longer school days and summer classes would require agreement by teachers unions and Hughes is hoping to collaborate with teachers and all parties.
He says this is not a counter to vouchers..."We've got these struggling schools. We've got to utilize well-researched, well thought out concepts that have been proven to work in other communities and put them toward these struggling schools. Vouchers is more of a selective program that gets a handful of students. This is a program that deals with all of the students in these struggling schools."
The pilot program would be funded out of money earmarked in next year’s state budget for public schools.