In 2009 when Gov. Ed Rendell defunded the Governor's Schools of Excellence, the residential summer program for high school students, it was more than a $3.2 million budget cut. It was an incalculable loss to the educations of the state's top academic achievers.
The Governor's Schools were scattered about the state at colleges and universities including Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, Penn State and Drexel. Each offered a program in a specific field: the arts; agricultural science; global entrepreneurship; information, society and technology; health care; international studies; sciences and teaching. Some of the schools dated back to the 1970s.
Although Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature have yet to act and resurrect the program, even though its cost would be a tiny part of the state's $28.4 billion budget, the Governor's School for the Sciences has returned this summer due to the generosity and smart thinking of alumni and corporate sponsors. The five-week program for 60 students will return to Carnegie Mellon because of $150,000 in donations from EQT Corp., AT&T, PPG, Teva Pharmaceuticals and others. The state Education Department provided a matching grant of equal amount.
With a shortage of American students who are not just proficient but truly excellent in math and science, programs like this are necessary. For the four years that the Governor's School for the Sciences was dark, imagine the hundreds of young Pennsylvanians whose passions to become future doctors, scientists, engineers or mathematicians were not set on fire. Last year, it was reported that 3 million jobs in the United States were unfilled, many of them for lack of skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Even beyond science, enrichment programs strengthen the academic and social skills of Pennsylvania students. Giving young people such opportunities keeps them from being idle during the summer and extends their learning and development.
The private donors who revived the Governor's School for the Sciences deserve to be applauded. Now, if only state officials would show similar enlightenment and bring the other schools back.