This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania State Reps. Jordan Harris and Joanna McClinton urged the black community to rally for expanded school choice and charter-friendly policies at a Center City forum Thursday evening.
Hosted by Educational Opportunities for Families, a charter advocacy group, the panel was billed as a discussion on race and equity in education. It comes as a charter-overhaul bill backed by Educational Opportunities for Families and other school-choice groups works its way through the state legislature.
Harris and McClinton, Democrats who represent adjacent swaths of Southwest Philadelphia, hit on familiar themes for charter advocates — including the need for black families to have options outside traditional public schools in struggling neighborhoods.
"People have told me that I’ve been trying to dismantle public education," said Harris. "No! I just know what it’s like to grow up in a neighborhood without options."
Harris, who graduated from a specialty program associated with Bartram High School, said too many of his peers at the main high school wound up slain, in prison, or working menial jobs.
Growing in Southwest Philadelphia, McClinton said her mother would not let her attend the neighborhood public school, vowing instead to work as many jobs as possible to pay for a private education. During a recent visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, McClinton said, she asked inmates what went wrong in their education.
"Unequivocally, they all said, ‘Well, if I had gotten into ‘x’ charter school’ or ‘If I had been able to go here, if I had been able to go there, I would not have been as likely to be lured to the streets,’" McClinton said.