The recent decision about Gov. Wolf’s Secretary of Education selection came out on Jan. 20. He selected Pedro Rivera, the former superintendent of the School District of Lancaster. To me the choice was a slight surprise, but by no means shocking. I thought perhaps Gov. Wolf would go with someone who many of us know in policy circles, such as Ron Cowell of the Education and Policy Leadership Center (I have heard Ron speak a few times and in my opinion it would have been a solid choice, and perhaps even a more politically safe one). Instead, Gov. Wolf went with Pedro Rivera, which seems like a declarative choice of someone whose experience clearly represents this administration’s educational agenda. This agenda seems set to be focused around equity and funding, particularly for low-income school districts.
Admittedly, I do not know much about Pedro Rivera, outside of reading a story about him in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Here are some of the more notable quotes/extrapolations in this story:
“It’s all about finding ways to engage and bring about greater equity to school districts,” he said.
Mr. Rivera’s selection by the governor indicates a change in educational philosophy and funding. While former Gov. Tom Corbett and his administration reduced education funding by nearly $1 billion when federal stimulus money dried up in 2011, Mr. Wolf is proposing a natural gas extraction tax that would raise $1 billion, of which he has said the “lion’s share” would go to education.
In addition, Mr. Wolf’s choice of a secretary who has spent his entire career in poor urban districts signifies a focus on the districts that were the hardest hit by past reductions in state and other government funding.
What should become clear from this small selection of text is that state-level education policy is going to take a different turn with Gov. Wolf and Sec. Rivera at the helm. It seems as if they are going to plug a great deal more of funding into low-income schools and do so considering issues of equity. Rivera’s experience in low-income districts also signals that Pennsylvania’s leadership will have more focused plans at helping some of the most cash-strapped and difficult school environments in the state. This is going to be a big change from Gov. Corbett (who focused a great deal on choice and charter schools in his agenda). I will keep you posted on how this shakes out, but I am willing to bet that PA is now headed in the right direction.