Reflections on American Education Week
by Mike Crossey
I'm not one to put a lot of stock in opinion polls.
I'd rather talk with people, look in their eyes, and feel the emotion in their voices.
For the past three years, I've traveled across Pennsylvania, and I've heard thousands of people talk about the funding crisis in their public schools.
They talk about class sizes that are too big, libraries that are closed, programs that have been cut, and good teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and classroom aides who have lost their jobs.
I've been struck by those conversations, because they almost always end the same way. The person I'm talking with asks me, "Can't we do better?"
And I always say the same thing.
"Yes, we can."
That's what so many Pennsylvanians believe.
The polls say that public education is the number one issue in Pennsylvania. And I know it's true because of all of those conversations I've had over the past three years.
In January, we can start making our students our government's top priority.
We can begin to fund our schools better, support our educators better, invest in our students better.
We can begin to do better, because Tom Wolf will be sworn in as Pennsylvania's governor, and we'll get a fresh start.
A fresh start is exactly what our public schools need - and that's exactly what our students deserve.
$1 billion in school funding cuts? Or making Marcellus Shale drillers pay their fair share to reverse them?
Crisis, cuts, and consequences on our kids? Or investments that help our kids learn and succeed in life?
All of those conversations I've had and all of those polls we've read in the newspapers say the same thing.
Our kids should come first.
And I'm confident that, with Tom Wolf as governor, they will.
Public education is the most important investment our commonwealth can make.
And, while Pennsylvania’s public schools and students have endured unprecedented challenges over the past three years, we still have a great deal to celebrate.
Our public schools are among the best in the nation. More than 1.8 million students learn in our schools every day. And they continue to be focal points for the communities they serve.
The backbone of these incredible public institutions is, has always been, and will continue to be the dedicated professionals who serve our students every day.
I certainly don’t need an opinion poll to know that this is true. In all my travels, conversations, and interactions with people across the state, I hear it said time and time again.
“I love my son’s teacher.”
“The school nurse took care of my daughter when she was sick.”
“My kids’ bus driver knows my children by name and starts their day with a smile every morning.”
The list goes on, and so do the compliments and commendations – just too many to count.
All those kind words mean this.
Educators are among the most respected and admired people in their communities. Parents trust them. Community leaders praise them. And elected officials look to them for advice on what policies work in our schools and classrooms every day.
This has never surprised me.
I know how hard Pennsylvania’s educators work, how dedicated, trusted, and successful they are.
These are facts worth celebrating. Pennsylvania’s educators are simply incredible.
But they can’t do the job alone.
They need fair and adequate state funding for their schools, equitable investments in our students, and a state government that values them as much as the parents, grandparents, and people in their communities do.
Tom Wolf is committed to doing better. I have every confidence that he will. And I am ready to do anything I possibly can to help him.
With Tom Wolf in the governor’s office, we can do better.
Now, when the people I talk with ask, “Can’t we do better for our schools?” I can answer them a little differently.
I will be able to say “Yes, we can – and we will.”