September 26, 2011

An Untapped Natural Resource

PSEA's recent advertorial appeared in newspapers across Pennsylvania in September 2011.

What if Pennsylvania had a valuable natural resource our elected officials weren't tapping? 

Marcellus Shale? Coal? Iron ore?


Something even more valuable. People. Education professionals.

What if we had people who spent 150 million hours each year in our public school classrooms? What if, over many years of experience, they discovered how kids learn and what impedes learning? What if they were trained in approaches to overcome the obstacles many of our students face?

What if these Pennsylvanians, these educators, were eager to offer Solutions That Work to meet the challenges our public schools face?

What if no one was asking them?

We Have Answers
At a time when every Tom, Dick, and Harriett claims to know how to improve school performance, shouldn’t policymakers ask the professionals who work in our schools, teach our children, and have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t?

Professional educators don’t make budgets, allocate resources, set standards, or determine whether students do homework or watch TV. But we teach history, biology, French, music, math, and reading, to name just a few. We motivate. We reach the students with the most challenging learning disabilities and home lives. We do it every day.  We do it because we are committed to ensuring every student has a qualified, caring, committed teacher.

Unlike some of the other ideas floating around Harrisburg (like vouchers), none of our ideas rely on abandoning our public schools. No quitting on the students who need our help the most. No outsourcing to those who would exploit our children for profit. These practical ideas are about rebuilding, as we say, the American way, the Pennsylvania way.

But, as amazing as it seems, this natural resource lies untapped.

With so many ideas about public education threatening to take our schools and students in the wrong direction, we invite Pennsylvanians to benefit from the resources before them.

Solutions That Work: Based on Evidence, Expertise, and Experience
We have Solutions That Work - ideas based on evidence, expertise, and experience. They are ideas for investing in the classroom priorities that build the foundation for student learning. 

We support programs that are already working - like early childhood education. The benefits of early childhood education far outweigh the costs and it absolutely improves our students’ success.

The solutions we propose should be state policy, because research says they help students learn. For example, strong communication between home and school improves student learning. So, we propose professional development programs focused on parental involvement and recommend giving incentives to employers that provide parents opportunities to meet with their children’s teachers and principals.

We know these approaches work, because educators see them working every day. 

Some schools are struggling. So, we propose Solutions That Work to help the students who learn in them. We recommend additional learning time for these students, comprehensive career and technical education, coordination between schools and law enforcement, alternative education for disruptive students, and training to guard against bullying and other threats.

We have ideas for improving the teaching profession, too. We support reinventing the teacher evaluation system, mentoring programs for new professionals, and streamlined dismissal procedures for educators who do not meet performance standards. 

To learn more, visit

Let’s Work Together
Pennsylvania’s educators are a perpetual resource. We have countless ideas for improving our public schools, which are already some of the best in the country. And we are ready to help lawmakers make the right choices for Pennsylvania’s students.

If we all work together – educators, parents, school boards, businesses, communities, lawmakers – we will make better decisions about investments in our schools. And the result will be an educated population, a strong economy, and thriving communities.

But first, policymakers must tap the resources in front of them. Pennsylvania’s educators are ready. We have ideas.

We have Solutions That Work. Let’s use them.

Michael J. Crossey

Michael J. Crossey, a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District, is president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. PSEA represents 193,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.



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