Education pays off

[by a Pittsburgh Colfax parent, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: December 28, 2011]

My father always said education is everything. As a father of two public school students, I would add public education is everything. Why? Because societies invest well when successfully educating all children.

Research shows that every $1 spent on early education yields $7 in savings because of less crime, drug use and teen parenting. That is why it was so alarming when Harrisburg cut almost $1 billion from public education, likely reducing many districts’ kindergartens, pre-K, professional development, tutoring, teacher and other staff positions, and many extracurricular activities. These cuts will hinder Pennsylvania’s children from entering secondary education, competing for good jobs, or creating new ones. Especially in an uncertain economy, this situation hurts all Pennsylvanians. Dad would not be happy.

What can we do? Voucher plans are not the answer. Because vouchers take public school money, they favor a smaller number of youth who get access, but reduce the resources left for the majority of children who do not. Also, voucher plans do not universally get better outcomes. Advocates say vouchers pressure public schools to improve through increased competition. Simply pressuring schools, while cutting their resources at the same time, is counterproductive. The real shame is that with increased funding, from 2003 to 2009, the percentage of proficient Pennsylvania students increased from 58 percent to 76 percent in math; 66 percent to 72 percent in reading. This suggests that we can make schools better for all children.

Before harming our investment in the future through drastic education cuts, politicians in Harrisburg should explore all other options not only to cut spending but also to raise revenue. Adequately supporting education for all children is something a dad could be proud of.

Squirrel Hill

Cuts’ consequences

[From a Pittsburgh Colfax parent, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: December 27, 2011]

I noted with interest the Post-Gazette’s recent poll about Americans’ beliefs, especially the fact that 66 percent of respondents believed we need to spend more on education, not less, to safeguard our future (“What Americans Believe,” Nov. 2-6 survey). That hit home in our house of three public school kids and leaves us just shaking our head at Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision last year to cut more than $1 billion from education. We had thought he was a moderate!

Almost $1 billion of the governor’s assault was approved, and now the impact on hundreds of thousands of our kids is hitting home. The PG documents that last year 70 percent of districts have increased class size, 44 percent have reduced electives, and 35 percent have reduced tutoring for kids who need help (“State Budget Had Big Impact in Classrooms,” Sept. 16).

My oldest daughter, 11, was so sad and angry at the impacts that she asked what she could do. We told her she could testify in front of the board of education, and she did! Proud as we are of her, we realize that the school boards are just dealing with the cuts handed down from the governor and Legislature. So that’s who we, our friends and acquaintances we talk to, from the cities to the suburbs, intend to hold accountable for stopping and reversing the cuts to education — the most important thing we can do for our communities’ economic strength!

We know the governor is preparing his next budget over the holidays. We hope he’ll stop and think about the real and potentially lifelong impact that his cuts have had on so many children. If he wants to preserve any remaining respect and support across the mainstream voters of Pennsylvania, he needs to produce a budget that enhances support for public education.

Squirrel Hill