by Emily Greene | May 01, 2024

Pennsylvania was once considered not only the Keystone of the nation, but the Keystone of education and educators in the United States. Unfortunately, over the years, we have seen a continued failing of our children by the so-called “adults” running not only our education system but its funding.

The very real and underlying question is: how much freedom do we actually have in our education system? In a Commonwealth that prides itself on educational greatness and personal sovereignty, we see not only a growing encroachment on both of those ideas but a growing bureaucracy that hinders personal choice in how our young people are educated—perhaps just as important as where the dollars for our students go.

A prime example of this is Tucker, a 3rd grader in Juniata who is homeschooled by his mother, Katrina. As a parent, Katrina decided that the public education system was not the right choice for her child during the pandemic. Her son, like all public school students, was to be masked for 8 hours a day, was being taught on topics that were not aligned with the family’s traditional or personal values, and the resources provided within the public structure did not meet the needs of her son.

Recently, her child was to fulfill the testing requirement for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, as it is more commonly referred to by parents, teachers and students. These PSSAs are supposed to be a baseline for how schools, and thus, individual students, are performing and their knowledge level compared to standards for their age group. However, they are also used as a baseline for funding. Admittedly, one could make a very fair argument that performance-based funding is a reasonable standard in all aspects of government, but this situation sheds light on a critical funding issue. Katrina pays for materials and other educational items to educate at home and do not use resources within the public schools outside of a loaned computer. However, they count on the school’s PSSA outcome scorecard, as do all of the other homeschooled children in their respective districts.

Like so many parents around the Commonwealth, their property taxes go to pay for the education of students in their community, but their own children reap little to no benefit of the dollars that are supposed to support all Pennsylvania students. Further, the efforts of Katrina and other parents are counted as a victory through the lense of PSSA outcomes for the public education system, who has provided no instruction to the children.

As our House and Senate move forward into a contentious budget season, we will see the first arguments over a new basic education funding formula after a decision last year by our Supreme Court that ruled our current structure unconstitutional.

At Americans for Prosperity, we believe that every kid should have the right to a fair education, and that parents should have a say in where that education takes place. From public to private, micro-school to homeschool, each family should not only have a choice but access to courses and extracurricular activities.

Moreover, each dollar spent by the Commonwealth should follow the child, not the institution. As current proposals from the Govenor’s office have indicated, all students are equal but some will be more equal than others in the distribution of dollars. Not all districts will get a fair shake and failing schools will be rewarded with more money rather than being forced into better tactics.

This was never so apparent as when we saw the Governor veto Pennsylvania Award for Student Scholarship credits for students in the lowest preforming schools. What should have been funding for our most vulnerable students was taken away with the swipe of a pen, a decision that only benefited teachers unions and administrators.

As taxpayers, we must be vigilant in protecting our children and our dollars and making sure that the next generation of Pennsylvanians are prepared for success, no matter the institution that is leading the way. The opportunity to learn has always been a point of pride for this Commonwealth. From Franklin’s idea of the first public library in Philadelphia to the investment in education by philanthropists like Carnegie in Pittsburgh, one would hope that the beneficiaries of those ideas in Harrisburg could put their collective minds together to fix what they have broken and unleash freedom into our education system.

You can join the fight to combat top-down education policies by getting connected with our team. Head to to join our movement of millions.

This is Emily Greene, Deputy State Director with Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania.