It’s simple really. The Pennsylvania Constitution has two short clauses relating to the funding of our public schools. Here they are in their entirety:

Article III, Section 14: Public School System
The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.

Article III, Section 15: Public School Money Not Available to Sectarian Schools
No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.

Thorough – as in comprehensive and not leaving anything out. I also like these synonyms: methodical, meticulous, scrupulous, and exhaustive. Yes, we want our public schools to reach everyone, not leave out any students, and to provide a complete education.

Efficient – as in well-organized, effective and not wasteful. We want all of these things, too.

The General Assembly has a legal obligation to pay for public education (that’s the “shall provide” part). But our schools are staggering under Governor Corbett’s $1 BILLION cut in “maintenance and support.” Our schools can no longer be thorough or efficient when they are forced to eliminate Kindergarten, librarians, tutoring, math and reading programs, music, art, physical education, special education, gifted education, and more.

Our students cannot receive a thorough or efficient education when their teachers are being laid off in droves. Pennsylvania lost over 14,000 educators last year and will lose thousands more this year. (See “No More Teachers, No More Books.”)

Today is the last day of school for students in the city of Pittsburgh. When the final bell rings, they will be saying goodbye to 285 of their teachers who received furlough notices and will not be returning in the fall. This is an outrageous situation, and our legislators need to understand exactly what is at stake as they enter the final negotiations on our state budget. So here is one last thing we can do:

Join us today, Wednesday June 13th, 6 – 7 pm, for a candlelight vigil outside the Board of Education building (341 S. Bellefield Ave. in Oakland, parking in Schenley Plaza). We will light 285 candles to represent the educators we are losing as a result of the devastating state budget cuts. We want to show our legislators, the school board, and the teachers that they will be missed. National Book Award winning poet Terrance Hayes will be our featured speaker. Please RSVP on our Facebook site.

The whole thing will take just one hour. It will be short, moving, good for the kids to participate in, will grab the media’s attention, send a strong message to our legislators, and you’ll be home in time for supper. It’s simple really.

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