Opinion

Holli Jo Warner | Pennsylvania public education is at a crossroads

We are at a crossroads in Pennsylvania — as a society and as the guardians of the next generation.

The decision is simple: Either we make a collective decision that providing every child with a good-quality education is a priority or we continue to allow the marketplace and politicians to create winners and losers.

For the past decade, the far right and the liberal elite have been vying to control the education-reform movement. Everyone has an opinion about the best ways to achieve an educated populace in every community in the commonwealth.

High-stakes testing, merit pay, test-based evaluations, rubric-based curricula, common standards, accountability, vouchers and for-profit charter and cyber education are just a few of the reforms touted by those who control the money and the power over public education.

But closing the achievement gap and ensuring an equally educated populace is not as simple as adopting a new set of standards or imposing more tests. It requires a soul-searching look at the real issues.

In 2010, Gov. Tom Corbett exacerbated the problem by slashing state education funding by $1 billion, which has affected every district.

As the state has lessened its share, local school boards have been forced to raise local property taxes to fund public schools.

All of this is during a time period in our history when there is unprecedented wealth and income inequality in our nation. Economists have shown that the top 1 percent of American households today hold a larger share of income than at any time since 1928.

But the role of public education is to help mitigate such disadvantage and democratize opportunity. No democracy can thrive without the democratization of opportunity. This is why public education matters now more than ever.

This week is American Education Week, a week designated to celebrate the greatest American success story.

America’s public schools are the cornerstone to our democracy. They are the heart and soul of every community. For 150 years, our public schools have offered every child an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

It is time for communities — every taxpayer and every parent — to come together in support of local public schools. United, we need to send a message to Harrisburg that it’s time to adequately fund public schools.

Our children’s education must be a top priority.

Every child in our state is a shared responsibility — regardless of their ZIP codes.

Please take a few minutes today to show your support for your local public schools by enrolling to be a Partner for Public Education at www.partnersforpubliced.org

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