PSEA announces Vision for a great public education
Imagine a Commonwealth where all children learn and achieve to their fullest potential and pursue lifelong learning opportunities within a quality public school system. Educators are valued, respected, and prepared to provide students with the academic tools they need to be successful citizens. Learning and teaching are supported by parents, families and communities. And, as a result, all communities thrive. This is PSEA’s Vision for great public education.
On January 7, PSEA released a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive document that uses educational research and decades of practice to outline what really makes a difference for students and quality education.
Video: PSEA President Jim Testerman opens January 7 news conference
“This year – more than any other in memory – public education policy must be at the center of debates about economic development, budgets, and priorities,” said Jim Testerman, president of the 191,000-member Pennsylvania State Education Association. “As we approach the 2010 elections and new fiscal year funding challenges, we need to work together to identify worthy investments within tight budgets. PSEA members know what works in public schools, and we have a responsibility to add facts to the public debate. We invite current and future policymakers to partner with us to reach our goal of strong schools, successful children, and vibrant communities.”
“We are delivering this document to every candidate for Governor and Lt. Governor, other candidates, current elected officials and education advocates,” Testerman said. “As education policy is debated, it is our hope that all candidates will start with a shared set of facts about the quality of public education in the Commonwealth.”
The PSEA 20/20 Vision for the Future (available online at www.psea.org/vision) is an invaluable resource for champions of public education. It outlines clear, research-based strategies in four areas:
- Full and fair state funding for public education;
- Proven, research-based strategies for increasing student achievement;
- Teaching and learning conditions that make student achievement possible; and
- Support and respect for education professionals in order to recruit and retain a quality workforce into the future.
PSEA Treasurer Jerry Oleksiak outlined specific recommendations for funding, saying, “In this global, knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, it is critical for every community in the Commonwealth to have top-notch public schools in order to compete for business investments and prepare their children to be successful individuals. It is also essential that state and local taxpayers are treated fairly, with their tax rates based on their real abilities to pay. A sound school funding formula on the state level accomplishes both of these essential objectives.”
Oleksiak summarized some of PSEA’s specific recommendations for targeted investments in programs proven to improve student achievement, such as expanding access to early care and education; reducing class sizes, maximizing learning time in and out of school; encouraging parental engagement; implementing transition programs for middle school and 9th grade; and enhancing career and technical education.
Dawn Bandle, President of PSEA’s Education Support Professionals Region, which includes bus drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries, classroom aides and maintenance employees, provided an overview of the numerous recommendations to improve teaching and learning conditions and support education professionals.
“Students learn best and achieve their full potential when they are physically, socially, emotionally, and academically safe – in safe schools and orderly classrooms,” Bandle said. “PSEA supports comprehensive, evidence-based efforts to increase student achievement by establishing a positive school climate as reflected in the character and quality of school life.”
Testerman said PSEA members know there is too much at risk to sit back and allow candidates to be swayed by the false promises of untested and illusory silver bullets. “The Commonwealth faces a watershed moment in education policy,” he said.
Testerman cited the progress Pennsylvania has made over the last few years, including historic state and federal investments in public education. With these new investments, the state is -- for the first time in decades -- basing funding decisions on the number of students who are being educated and the tools they need to learn.
At the same time, he said, Pennsylvania students are shining:
- Pennsylvania students are the only ones in the nation to make gains in all academic categories from 2002-08;
- Students’ reading and math scores are among the nation’s best for the years in which they are tested; and
- More Pennsylvania students are going to college than ever before.
“All of this success builds to a turning point in the events of 2010 and beyond,” Testerman said. “Federal funds expire in a year and a half; for the next several years, our state funding formula will need additional revenues to continue to attain goals of equitable state funding. The timing isn’t a mistake. Our schools need these investments in order to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress achievement targets by the 2014 deadline,” said Testerman.
“We did not write this book to collect dust on a shelf,” Testerman said. “Today is the start of PSEA’s 2010 public campaign for public education. We have invited all candidates for governor to a forum next weekend, at which they will respond to our Vision and tell our members which policies they support. We will share their comments, as well as our document with the public, and spend the next several months building support for our vision for the future.”
More information is available at www.psea.org/Vision.