Earlier this week, Roc Nation, the renowned entertainment company, unveiled plans to lead an educational campaign in Philadelphia aimed at helping students from low-income households access scholarships worth approximately $300 million to attend private schools in the city.


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The initiative, named the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS), will be introduced through a series of events across the greater Philadelphia region from June 10 to June 21. These events will educate the public about the PASS program, also known as Senate Bill 757, designed to enhance educational opportunities for underprivileged youth attending the state’s lowest-performing public schools.

Today, Roc Nation has released a statement about the support of PASS:

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The proficiency rates for students in Pennsylvania public schools are staggering.

According to the 2023 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), roughly 75 percent of eighth-grade students in the Pennsylvania public school system aren’t proficient in math while 47 percent aren’t proficient in language arts. Furthermore, in the bottom 15 percent of the state’s public schools, the data reveals that less than 10 percent of students are proficient in math, and only 25 percent are proficient in English. In 40 schools across the state, there were no students – absolutely none – that met the grade-level proficiency criteria in math.

While opposition dissects the future of public and private schools and debates our support of the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS), they are missing the most critical component of this entire equation – the children. Not once are the children mentioned. Not once are the dire proficiency levels of the children in Pennsylvania acknowledged.

At the end of the day, Roc Nation’s advocacy is centered around children and their right to seek the best options for quality education. If PASS scholarship legislation is approved, the initiative would empower parents and caretakers to evaluate multiple school programs and make informed scholastic decisions for the well-being of their children.

Otherwise, parents are simply at the mercy of the system, where their kids’ academic futures are predetermined based on economic status and the location of their homes. The reality is the current system is fundamentally flawed and failing our youth.

Look at the facts of William Penn School District et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education et al, a case filed in 2014 by six Pennsylvania school districts, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP-PA State Conference, and a group of public-school parents.

Nearly a decade after the original lawsuit, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled in 2023 that the state’s education system had been so underfunded that it violated students’ constitutional rights. During the course of this lengthy trial, students were denied a fair chance of receiving a basic education. It’s unacceptable, heartbreaking and appalling. Based on the conclusions of this trial we must all agree that this issue, and the future of our children, can no longer be ignored.

Fortunately, due to the Commonwealth Court’s ruling, there is a bill passed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would potentially bring $5.1 billion to school districts across the state and help close the disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest schools. Although it’s a positive development, it begs multiple questions – how will this change take effect? What’s the plan to deploy those funds? When will the schools be properly resourced?

There is no tactical solution in place from the state and children are being forced to wait for answers. With every year that goes by, more and more children – particularly from poor districts – are missing out on learning opportunities and failing to maximize the full scope of their academic potential. The PASS scholarship programs being proposed all have clear and targeted criteria to ensure those in need – specifically households earning 250% below the federal poverty line – are eligible to receive financial aid. Not to mention that PASS scholarships would be funded by a separate tax funded state account, not assigned to public education.

Roc Nation’s passion for the PASS legislation is solely predicated on educational concerns for the children of the poorest zip codes in Pennsylvania. Anyone claiming our interest is political is political. If anyone would like to propose a more immediate solution, then we are all ears and would love nothing more than an opportunity to discuss. Until then, voting against PASS scholarships is the equivalent of telling Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable students that they must remain captive to a system that is not working for them.

We simply want to provide caregivers with knowledge around bills that would propose a strategic, near-term solution to support their children. Parents should be free to evaluate the best academic options possible for their kids without becoming political pawns for public pundits.

We are passionate about this issue because we have a personal connection with several communities across Pennsylvania. From organizing Made in America Festivals in Philadelphia to collaborating with REFORM Alliance on transformative statewide probation and parole bills, we have spent a significant amount of time in Pennsylvania over the years and truly care for its resilient residents.

We are supporters of the public school system – many of us are products of that very same system. But numbers don’t lie, and the data shows that there must be another avenue for success for the state’s most vulnerable students. Different communities across the country will require different solutions and should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. For Pennsylvania, we believe PASS scholarships provide caregivers and students an education alternative that they should have the right to consider. 

We can’t sit idly for another decade as the proficiency rates for students in Pennsylvania plunge lower and lower. We can’t keep failing the next generation of state leaders.

The children of Pennsylvania deserve better.

Roc Nation

To be eligible for PASS scholarships, students must come from households with incomes not exceeding 250% of the federal poverty level, currently set at $75,000 for a family of four. The scholarship amounts will vary, ranging from $2,500 for half-day kindergarten students to $15,000 for students with special needs, with funds provided by the government without impacting public school education budgets.

Roc Nation, known for its commitment to community development, has been deeply involved in Philadelphia through initiatives like the Made in America Festival since 2012 and collaboration with REFORM Alliance on criminal justice reform. Dania Diaz, Roc Nation’s Managing Director of Philanthropy, emphasized the importance of empowering Philadelphia’s youth for long-term success.

To learn more about the events and receive updates on the PASS bill, individuals can sign up at PASS Campaign Website.

Dine & Learn Events Schedule

June 10: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Hunting Park

June 11: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Olney-Feltonville

June 12: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Brewerytown

June 13: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Haddington

June 15: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at East Passyunk/South Philly

June 17: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Hunting Park

June 18: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Olney-Feltonville

June 19: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at East Passyunk/South Philly

June 20: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Brewerytown

June 21: 12 pm ET – 7 pm ET at Haddington

About The Author

Senior Editor

Shawn Grant is a Chicago native and the Senior Editor of The Source Magazine. He can only be found on Instagram and Twitter at @shawnxgrant.

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