Joe Sestak Leads Emergency Meeting on Education in Philadelphia

Responds to Report Ranking School District One of Worst in Nation

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Today, U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak led an emergency meeting of educators and youth development experts to respond to the startling statistics released last week by the Schott Foundation listing Philadelphia ranks among the five worst performing school districts in the nation.

The report found that only 28 percent of black students in Philadelphia earn a high school diploma, in comparison to neighboring Newark, New Jersey, which sets the benchmark for graduation rates among African American male students at 75 percent. Just 33 percent of white students in Philadelphia complete their high school education, compared to the 78 percent national average. The racial achievement gap across the Commonwealth is astonishing, with 53 percent of black students earning a high school diploma compared to 83 percent of their white peers.

“These numbers don’t show our students failing – they show our school system failing our students,” said Joe. “This isn’t the first time that we have seen numbers like these, yet our inner cities continue to lag behind. It’s time to get serious about improving the quality of life in this city and that begins with education. The problems that plague our urban centers, like crime and unemployment, are directly related to how much we commit our time and resources to helping the youth in our community gain the tools they need to succeed in the workforce and provide for their families.”

The Schott Foundation study showed that more than half of Philadelphia’s black male population in Grade 8 read below Basic level and virtually none read at the Advanced level. White male students were three times more likely to participate in Mathematic Advanced Placement and six times more likely to participate in Science Advanced Placement courses than their black male classmates.

“This is unacceptable. Quality education is the foundation of our prosperity, and our nation’s strength,” said Joe. “We are falling behind – and we are failing these students. Our future stands to suffer as a result. This report contains a number of strong recommendations to help narrow the achievement gap. We need to take a hard look at these ideas, and keep all options on the table.”

Joe pointed to New Jersey’s Abbott Plan as one successful example we should take a look at. It shows that when equal opportunities are available, systematic change can occur. The program included increased hours of education each day, including on weekends and in the summer, continuous professional development for educators, and greater investment in 0-4 preschool preparation programs.

Admiral Sestak’s Report Card on Education

  • 100% lifetime rating from the National Education Association
  • Championed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve teacher quality by providing financial incentives for teachers and principals who raise student achievement and close the achievement gaps in high schools and provide $100 million for competitive grants to states to address teacher shortages and modernize the teaching workforce.
  • Authored the School Meal Enhancement Act of 2009 to create a national school meal program to help low-income families.
  • Voted to raise the Education Budget by $1.3 billion, to improve our schools, help children to read and raise high school graduation rates.
  • Co-sponsor of the PRE-K Act to improve state-funded preschool programs.
  • Co-sponsored and passed the Improving Head Start Act to expand and improve the Head Start early childhood education program and co-sponsoredbill to allow for Head Start teachers to have the same deductions as elementary and secondary school teachers.
  • Invested $2.1 billion in Head Start through recovery efforts and increased Head Start funding by $235 million in 2010 to ensure that low-income children have access to high quality preschool services.
  • Co-sponsored the Keeping our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers Act to fully authorize funding for No Child Left Behind

Congressman Toomey Report Card on Education:

  • 7 percent lifetime rating from the National Education Association
  • Gave tax dollars to private schools by voting multiple times to expand vouchers [HR 2, #521, 10/21/99; HR 1, #135 and #136, 5/23/01; HR 2765, #479, 9/5/03 and #490, 9/9/03]
  • Opposed a bipartisan, deficit-reducing bill that would save thousands of teacher jobs in Pennsylvania.
  • Voted to slash the Education Budget, cutting it by almost $3 billion [HR 4577, #273, 6/14/00] and voted time and again against raising it [HR 3061, #504, 12/19/01; #301, 6/24/04]
  • Voted numerous times against funding for school construction and modernization to correct the problems of overcrowding and poor conditions in America’s public schools [HR 2488, #331, 7/22/99; HR 230, #531, 10/21/99; HR 4577, #484, 9/20/00; HR 1, #144, 5/23/01; HR 3090, #402, 10/24/01]
  • Voted against a minimum level for Head Start funding [HR 4577, #603, 12/15/00]
  • Cast the deciding vote to allow organizations receiving Head Start funds topractice discrimination in the hiring of staff [HR 2210, #444, 7/25/03]
  • Voted to let states otherwise spend funding meant for low-income and educationally disadvantaged children by converting it into education block grants [HR 2300, #532, 10/21/99]
  • Voted against teacher training programs — was one of only 17 Congressmen (against more than 400 who voted for the teacher training) to vote against improving the quality, preparation and recruitment of teachers [HR 2211, #340, 7/9/03]
  • Voted against increased funding for class-size reduction and teacher training programs [HR 1995, #319, 7/20/99]
  • Voted again — multiple times – against reducing class size [HR 2300, #531, 10/21/99; HR 4577, #484, 9/20/00]

“Congressman Toomey does not even address education on his campaign website,” said campaign spokesman Jonathon Dworkin. “With his record, it is no surprise that he has a seven percent lifetime rating from the National Education Association. He has refused to support our students at every level, from opposing funding a successful pre-K program to being one of only 17 House members to vote against teacher training to working against an increase in college financial aid for families that most need it. He either doesn’t have a plan to address the challenges facing our next generation school system or it’s not even on his radar.”

Joe Sestak was elected to Congress in 2006 after a distinguished 31-year career in the United States Navy, and he is honored to represent the Southeastern Pennsylvania district where he was born and raised. He is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania.  During his Navy career, Joe attained the rank of 3-star Admiral, served in the White House as Director for Defense Policy on President Clinton’s National Security Council, served in the Pentagon as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, and led a series of operational commands at sea, culminating in command of the USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Battle Group (30 ships, 100 aircraft, and 15,000 sailors/marines/aviators/SEALs) during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In our nation’s time of crisis in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Navy turned to Joe Sestak to serve as the first Director of “Deep Blue,” the Navy anti-terrorism unit formed in response to the attacks. Joe is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to either branch of Congress. He graduated second in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a Master’s in Public Administration and a PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University. Joe lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Susan, and daughter, Alex, and proudly represents the 7th District, where his mother and many of his seven siblings still reside.

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