PSEA Steps Up for Kids
On September 16, PSEA joined the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, and organizations across the nation for Step Up For Kids Day. Public, non-partisan events were held in all 50 states and in Washington D.C., as part of a nationwide effort to draw public attention to issues affecting America's children, and to support investments in programs that impact their health, education and well-being. The events emphasized the importance of these issues in this year's election, and that children's issues should be a "front-burner issue for candidates and the news media during the final two months of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign."
Learn more about the program at www.everychildmatters.org.
PSEA Treasurer Jerry Oleksiak spoke at Pennsylvania's event, held in the state capitol.
Oleksiaks remarks at the event:
I am pleased to be here with this notable group of individuals and organizations as part of “Step Up for Kids Day”, drawing much-needed attention to the children of our Commonwealth and our nation during this critical election year.
Our future as a Commonwealth and a nation will depend in large measure upon the knowledge, skills, creativity, and determination of our people, and the investment we are ready to make in the future of our children
At PSEA, we know that students and schools need a variety of supports to assure that all young people enter school ready to learn, progress through school successfully, and graduate ready for what lies beyond – postsecondary education and careers that provide family-sustaining incomes.
Let's tell our candidates for state and national office what we as leaders and decision makers need to provide adequate, equitable, and reliable state funding to school districts – with districts accountable for spending that investment effectively – so that education improvement initiatives can be implemented and supported on a consistent basis across the state and over time.
Let's use that funding for what we know works:
- Providing a highly qualified, properly certified teacher in every classroom, with a renewed emphasis on effective professional development that will help teachers work in increasingly complex school environments.
- Providing smaller class sizes, appropriate supports for children and parents, effective and appropriate assessments, and perhaps most importantly, early intervention programs like full-day kindergarten.
- Full-day kindergarten as an effective gateway to learning.
- Full-day kindergarten has been proven to increase school success for young children, especially those who enter school at-risk for later failure.
- Children in full-day kindergarten programs make more progress in literacy and math than those in half-day programs and have lower retention rates and special education placements in the primary grades.
- Full-day kindergartners outscore children in half-day programs on standardized achievement tests and are more creative and more engaged in learning, behave better, and transition more successfully to first grade.
In recent years, Pennsylvania has gone from only 29 percent of its kindergartners in full-day programs to almost 57 percent in 2006-07 – due in large part to the Education Accountability Block Grant. Last year, 350 districts spent about $155.6 million of their block grant funds to support full-day kindergarten for more than 56,000 students. Despite this progress, Pennsylvania still trails the nation; about two-thirds of all American kindergartners are in full-day programs.
A number of bills have been introduced in Congress to provide additional resources and guidance for early childhood education. These proposals would provide grants to states to support voluntary, high-quality preschool and to enhance the quality of the preschool programs in the states.
On the federal level, we must also urge Congress and the next president to ensure continued educational progress through:
Revising and fully funding No Child Left Behind; funding special education as called for in IDEA; and increases for career and technical education. Federal rules for implementing these programs are major drivers of state and local education costs, and the federal government has never provided enough funding to implement its own mandates.
This is the beginning of a much needed investment in the future of our commonwealth and of our nation. Thank you for standing up for kids. This election, let’s put kids – and their education - first! Ask the candidates the tough questions – what will they do to invest in kids and their families?