By Candi Haas-Simmons | Pottstown, Montgomery County
Editor's Note: While the writer primarily focuses on the Pottstown School District in Montgomery County, the issues she writes about have local impacts, including in the Shenandoah Valley School District, which now only has one dedicated art teacher and one dedicated music teacher for the district's two schools. In 2010, the district had two high school art teachers, an elementary school art teacher, high school music teacher/band director, an elementary school music teacher, and elementary school band director.
As an art educator and parent in Pottstown School District, I too often find myself fighting to insure that the arts remain a vital part of our schools. Too often seen as less important, the arts are the first things threatened when the funding squeeze renews.
Pottstown has an excellent track record in the arts and my family has benefited; we continue to express ourselves creatively as adults. Still, the threat to eliminate the arts always looms because Pottstown is chronically and criminally underfunded.
There is no way to sugar coat the fact that Pennsylvania has a disgraceful record when it comes to public education. In 2018, our state was eighth in the nation in the funding gap between high and low spending per student.(1)
There is no compelling logic as to why some children are deemed worthy of a better education than others.
Politicians preen and say they have adopted "fair funding". This is true only for new monies, which are scant. Then they wring their hands and ask how can they hurt the districts that have been given more than their fair share?
Yet, in our state, over half of our children are being hurt by these policies.(2) Fifty-two percent go to schools that can't provide competitive wages for the best teachers, struggle to find materials to use, can not bring adequate technology into classrooms and must eliminate the arts that so enrich education. The majority of children in this state are receiving an inadequate education.
It must end.
Please consider that this impacts every person in the state. In the end, when education falters, children become adults facing lives without the education they need to become fully contributing members of their community. The rest of society pays over the long run for what we failed to give them as children, a classic example of "penny-wise and pound-foolish".
Many people have raised their voices, demanding that this flawed system of property taxes, underfunding and inequitable distribution end. Please add your voice to ours, so that all of Pennsylvania's children are treated as worthy of a good education.
(1) The Educational Trust, "Funding Gaps 2018"
(2) David Mosenkis, Systemic Racial Bias in Latest Pennsylvania School Funding, 2016