Rap star Jay-Z has not only voiced his support for $300 million in scholarship money from public funding in Pennsylvania, but he has taken concrete steps by organizing a series of events in Philadelphia to promote it. This high-profile endorsement, along with the backing of figures like Meek Mill, carries significant weight and makes it more challenging for the opposition to discredit the initiative.

It’s much harder for progressives, the “Abbott Elementary” show writers, and The Philadelphia Inquirer editors to villainize him than it is to attack Jeff Yass, the Pennsylvania billionaire who is a huge donor to scholarships for poor kids and a loud public voice for vouchers.

Jay-Z, Meek Mill and others realize a good education as the secret sauce to lift people out of poverty and reduce the number of young men of color committing crimes and going to prison. Dania Diaz, Jay-Z’s managing director of philanthropy, said of the initiative, “We want to empower the youth and families with the knowledge to pursue their scholastic dreams, make their voices heard and become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Diaz has also pointed out that the scheduled events will challenge the myth that the $300 million scholarship proposal would weaken funding for the state’s public schools because this is a separate line item. It was, in part, supported by Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro during last year’s budget battle.

As a parental rights advocate and a former teacher for over 20 years, I see this. A recent report on 2024 test scores across Pennsylvania public schools showed that 66 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, and 73 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in math.

Those who support a system that produces these results expect us to believe that today’s historic public school spending levels are not nearly enough and that adding tens of billions to the spending will somehow produce results.

The crux of the matter is that Democratic Party officials are aligning with the teachers’ unions, disregarding the desires of parents to have the freedom to make the best educational decisions for their children.

The PSEA and other unions, as major Democratic Party donors, are instrumental in securing election victories. This dynamic perpetuates a system where students in underperforming public schools are essentially pawns traded for political gain.

The Center Square reported this week that dozens of Black pastors and other religious leaders sent an open letter to Shapiro urging him to support school choice and educational freedom. Black Pastors United for Education emphasized the need for parents and students to finally have educational freedom and opportunity.

In the Delaware Valley Journal, Taylor Millard reports that state Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) doesn’t seem to want to address Black and Latino leaders calling for parental choice and at a recent education rally. Instead, Williams said school choice backers support White, Christian Nationalist goals. According to Millard, she said that supporters of choice “want to drive straight, White, able-bodied kids into private religious schools.” This form of attack is not all that uncommon. Williams just said the quiet part out loud. She represents the failing status quo that will not easily be dislodged.

As we approach the final budget negotiations, the crucial question remains: Will  Shapiro uphold his commitment to bring about some form of school choice? The support of influential figures like Jay-Z, Meek Mill, and other prominent African Americans, coupled with the advocacy of Republicans in Harrisburg, could significantly sway the outcome of this pivotal battle for educational freedom.

I think this time, the answer will be yes to these questions. The time is right to do the right thing, support parental rights, and give kids a real shot at a better future.

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