Governor Tom Corbett, Congressman Chaka Fattah and State Senator Christine Tartaglione joined Esperanza leaders on Tuesday to "break ground" outside Esperanza College and celebrate the campus's upcoming addition—a middle school, gym and performing arts venue.
Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program contributed $5 million to the expansion of Esperanza's campus, adding to the $11 million in funding that the state has passed onto the organization in the course of Corbett's time as governor. Other funders included the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and PNC Bank.
Currently, Esperanza operates multiple education entities, including the charter high school Nueva Esperanza Academy, Esperanza College (a partner of Eastern University) and AMLA music school. The new middle school will widen Esperanza's reach in basic education to 1400 students.
"What Esperanza is doing is providing an education that every student in our state deserves," Corbett said. "Every young person can reach his or her full potential."
However, not every student in Philadelphia has been getting the education that the governor said they deserve. Years of shifting funding from states to localities resulted in the School District of Philadelphia falling hundreds of millions of dollars short as resources were stretched across district schools and the ever-expanding number of charter schools. The district responded by eliminating thousands of employees. A $440 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year could cut what's left of staff in schools that are already missing the appropriate number of full-time nurses, counselors, librarians, teachers and administrators.
Esperanza Academy Charter High School educates around 800 students across 6th through 12th grades, of whom 94 percent identify as Latino and 91 percent as economically disadvantaged. While in recent years, fewer than 65 percent of students tested proficient in mathematics, reading and science, the school has been meeting annual academic growth expectations for mathematics and reading. Grade 11 PSSA averages in the district hover below 50 percent.
Esperanza's graduation rate of 93 percent is comparably high to local district high school, Thomas Edison, which instructs twice as many high school students. Just 38 percent of students graduate at Edison.