Public education has been part of my life since I started kindergarten at a Philadelphia public school way back in the mid 1970s. I completed 13 years in public school, kindergarten through 12th grade. During that time I had the opportunity to spend a year, in fifth grade, learning some Latin, learning how to play flute and violin in third and fifth grade respectively, help out in the library as an aid in sixth grade (and further develop my love of books and the dewey decimal system,) learn some French and Spanish in seventh grade and then continue to study French in 8th through 12th grades and develop my interest in all things French!
I had gym class every year. I remember when my elementary school installed a new trampoline in the gym and we all got to take turns on it. I remember participating in a "jump rope-a-thon" in the gym in elementary school. I had the best art teacher in elementary school, Mrs. Horshack. I wanted her job. I still remember exactly how she pronounced "orange," as she was a native New Yorker. I remember taking a special art club program with her after school. All of these "electives" helped me grow as a student and as a person, contributing to my understanding and learning.
Today, many school districts in Pennsylvania are facing enourmous budget cuts due to Governor Corbett's severe funding slashing to public eduction. That means that kids in school today may not be able to have the opportunity to have "elective" classes. (I use quotations because I do not consider art, gym, music, language or library science elective, but essential; the schools are forced to classify them as such.) My son is still in preschool, but I study what happens in our local public school system to see what opportunities he will, or maybe will not have when he goes there in 2013. My husband and I are prepared that we might have to supplement our son's education as needed with private lessons in music or other arts. It isn't fair to today's students that they might loose out on the chance to experience learning opportunities that will contribute to their futures.
I learned recently that a neighboring school district, Upper Darby School District, is only able to balance their school budget by eliminating art, music, gym and library classes in elementary schools and eliminating language and technology classes at the middle schools. Those cuts include many teachers losing their jobs. This school district, according to PSEA, is facing an almost $6 million budget cut since the 2010-2011 school year. This is a disservice to the children that will have a profound consequence on their future. It is also a disservice to the teachers who worked so hard to establish their curriculums and own studies to be exemplary teachers. And is is a disservice to the community, who will now have children growing up through their school district with an educational disadvantage, affecting the community's future.
Balancing the budget for a school district is an enourmous task that appears to be compounded by antiquidated PA laws. There is no simple answer, except maybe the powers that be ought to focus on solutions to this crisis by engaging with educational professionals who understand the problem enough to brainstorm a solution. People need to talk about this problem so that it stays a trending topic in the media and under the noses of the elected officials.
Thanks to Stephanie of Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom for enlightening me on this topic. Check out her blog for her post and links to others who are concerned about the budget cuts to public education in Pennsylvania.