Saving ‘America’s Noble Experiment’
The cuts are here.
In January, the district announced the sharpest reductions so far to the Taylor Allderdice High School budget. The numbers are stark. The school will lose 18.5 faculty overall, whether through attrition or furlough. The 2012-2013 school year will see larger class sizes, scarcer funds for sports and clubs, and the prospect of further cuts down the road.
But the bottom line is this: Allderdice will have more students and fewer teachers next school year.
This is the commencement of austerity. The hawkish fiscal policy championed by the Republican Party of Speaker John Boehner and Governor Tom Corbett has hit home.
The pain of laying off teachers is not felt in Washington, nor is it felt in Harrisburg. The shame of slashing public school budgets is not felt by millionaires and billionaires. The deconstruction of public education in the United States, however improbable that appears at this moment, is underway. This is the path championed by a segment of Americans deeply unhappy with government in any form, be it Social Security, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or public schools.
A documentary series titled “SCHOOL: The Story of American Public Education” aired on PBS over a decade ago. The writers of the series rightly described the goal of universal education as “a cornerstone of our democracy.” They termed public education “America’s noble experiment.”
It is time to decide whether we want to fight to pursue and preserve our noble experiment any longer.
It is time to tell Speaker Boehner and Governor Corbett that reducing funding for education on the federal and state levels is hurting schools districts on the local level. The Pittsburgh Public Schools is not the worst case by far; simply take a look at the Chester Upland school district, which, though near bankruptcy, the state is refusing to lend assistance to.
It is time to stop making excuses. There is no excuse for not funding education. It is time to stop arguing that austerity is not so bad and that all will be well. Soothing the worries of parents, teachers, and students with idle words while the future of public education is at stake, not only in the City of Pittsburgh and the Borough of Mt. Oliver but around the country, is a disservice.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “It is very difficult to improve the quality of education while losing teachers, raising class sizes, and eliminating after school and summer school programs.” That’s the stark truth. It’s the stark truth we must hear, like the siren of an alarm, if we are to face those who wish to deconstruct public education.
It is time to save “America’s noble experiment.”
The job of the editorialist is to offer commentary on the news. Thoughtful, reasoned opinion on the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the story. Unlike the hard-nosed reporter, the editorialist is encouraged to offer observations, proposals, and judgements.
The editorials section, while the home of the editorialist, is at the same time a very public space. Where news stories are meant to inform readers, editorials engage. They spark discussion. They hold students, faculty, and public officials alike accountable. In the open.
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The job of the opinion writer is to offer commentary on the news as well. The thoughts and conclusions of the opinion writer, however, do not reflect, as editorials do, the observations and judgments of the newspaper. In this case, of The Foreword. We welcome opinion columnists and contributors from within and without the paper.
To kick off what will no doubt evolve into a full fledged Op-Ed page, the editorials section today published for the first time an opinion column (this one) titled, “The Chief.” Written by the editor-in-chief of The Foreword, “The Chief” is an unabashed commentary on the news of the day and the handling thereof by the news media.