As my husband outlined in his address to the General Assembly this past week, we have a choice to make — a choice that has serious implications for the future of Pennsylvania’s schools. And for the future of our state.
We can choose to ignore the $2 billion structural deficit that Pennsylvania faces, which will force an additional $1 billion in cuts to our schools. If we choose this path, we will bar tens of thousands of preschoolers from early childhood programs. We will force school districts to lay off thousands of dedicated public school educators. We will create significantly larger class sizes depriving our children of the attention and resources they need to succeed. We will reduce their possibilities for success not only in the classroom but in life. And we will force school districts to exact even higher property taxes — taxes that were already increased in 2011. To a greater degree than ever before we will force many homeowners to choose between paying their property taxes or keeping their homes.
Or, we can choose to support the program my husband set out in his new budget proposal. His plan will restore investments to our schools and ensure that the state lives up to its constitutionally mandated responsibility to fund our schools. His plan promotes brighter prospects for our children by investing in early childhood and higher education. His plan will reduce the property tax burden that homeowners face.
If we choose this latter path, we will build a strong foundation for our educational system and our children. We will give our schools the important resources they need to teach. And we will give our children the quality public school education they deserve.
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As parents of two children who were educated in Pennsylvania public schools, Tom and I take education very seriously. We recognize that parents, like us, want the best outcomes for their children, and expect us to ensure a quality education for them. Not only are the futures of our children at stake but so is the future of our commonwealth.
The quality of the education system we invest in and provide to our children is intricately intertwined with the jobs we can offer them in the future. Do we want a system that ill prepares them academically, rendering them less competitive in the job market? Or do we invest in a system that fuels their full competitive advantage?
We are at a critical crossroads. The choice we make will have serious consequences for all of us. If we are to have strong prospects, we need to choose investing in our schools rather than depleting them. We need to relieve homeowners of the ever rising burden of funding education. In the end we need to do everything we can to do right by our children. They deserve it. Quite simply, we owe it to them.
Frances Wolf is the first lady of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania