[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.