Pennsylvania can do better.
I spent the first seven years of my career as an elementary music teacher in a small, rural public school in the Pennsylvania Wilds. Those seven years taught me more about public education than any class I ever completed. There are teachers, administrators, and support staff giving their all day in and day out for our kids- they are real life superheroes.
Teaching in a small school meant that we were perhaps more aware than others of just how inadequate school funding is in Pennsylvania. We rank 46th in the nation for state share of education funding, according to the latest census data. But instead of prioritizing our kids in the budget, the current legislature is trying to siphon more money out of public education and into private school vouchers.
We are in a crisis moment in this country, and in Pennsylvania. Teachers and school staff are being asked to do more with less. Our students are reliant on schools for more services than ever before, but our schools are being financially squeezed. I remember sitting in a meeting and being told by an administrator that in terms of scheduling, my primary job function was lunch and recess coverage. Imagine how demoralizing that feels as a young teacher who went into the field to make a difference in kids' lives.
Our inadequate funding system has led to valuable support positions being cut, entire subjects being eliminated from curriculum offerings (especially the arts, physical education, library staff, and counselors), and fewer activities for our students.
I care passionately about public education. I attended PA public schools, earned degrees from two PASSHE schools, and was an active member of my LEA. I support unions. I am currently working for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, continuing my focus on supporting the teachers and students of Pennsylvania, as well as the music programs that are central so many of our school communities.
I want to be a leader in Harrisburg in the fight for protecting and improving public education. I believe in the power of early childhood education, career and technical training, as well as affordable public colleges and universities. Children are not standardized, and we need to ensure they have the resources they need to choose a career path that works for them.
My generation is drowning in student debt and struggling to find affordable child care. We can and must do better- for our kids, and for ourselves. We need to spend less time taking standardized tests and more time doing experiments. We need more recess and less time spent in active shooter drills. We need bold leaders who will fight to find solutions, even when we don't know the answers ourselves.
I am ready to be that leader.
Conducting my first Spring Concert. May 2010.