Educators urge President to address school funding, economic inequality

By Amanda Litvinov/photo by Colleen Flaherty

Educators, parents and other public school supporters have a clear message for President Obama: There’s no way you can overstate the importance of public education in the State of the Union address tomorrow evening.

More than 900 people responded to an EducationVotes survey that asked them to identify what they hope the President will talk about in his address tomorrow evening. Seventy-eight percent said they want him to make education funding an urgent priority; other top issues were economic inequality and childhood poverty (71%); workers’ rights and unionization (57%); higher education affordability and accessibility (54%); and education corporatization/privatization (47%).

Educators and parents know that supporting a public education system that serves all students requires appropriate funding, keeping corporate interests out of education, and addressing our nation’s growing economic gap. Many also expressed fear for students’ futures if we don’t address these issues.

“Excellent public education is the most important factor in improving economic equality,” said Joan Duncanso of Minnesota. “Public schools made this country great. We need to invest in public schools to keep our country strong.”

Here’s what others had to say:

Education funding

Appropriate education funding (pre-K through college) will take care of each of the other categories and economic and political problems in our country. It will irradicate poverty; fix the economy; enlighten a voting public; increase wages and jobs for people; establish a bright future for more than the upper classes; create economic mobility and lessen the economic gap in the United States of America.—Karen D., Michigan

As funding gets cut, I watch opportunities for the special needs students I work with also being cut. I dread the awful possibility that we could be outsourced, which would be extremely detrimental to the special education/emotional support children I work with. They depend on us and our expertise to help them; we are often the one stable part of their lives. If you cut programs and outsource the ESP personnel, these students no longer have the resources and stability they need to succeed.–Vicki E., Pennsylvania

Economic inequality/childhood poverty

State_Union-MemeToo many children are hungry or not getting enough nutrition. They can’t learn well if they aren’t eating right.  Economic inequality is a detriment to our country! The children are our future and we aren’t doing what we need to do to insure they have a good education. –Carol Y., California

Workers rights

The rights of workers are very important for economic opportunity.  Look at wage history, worker safety etc. prior to collective bargaining and workers rights.  While cooperation between all is impair active under our current state administration the pendulum has swung way to far to the right. –Scott R., Wisconsin
Workers’ rights are the basis for defeating economic inequality.  Companies and state governments continue to undermine worker’s rights to a job, a decent wage, and thus the economic mobility needed to combat childhood poverty.–Leon A., New Jersey

Higher education affordability and accessibility

College tuition costs are crippling young adults’ economic prospects.  The cost of tuition and fees has skyrocketed out of control, and this astronomical cost is unreachable for most families.  Massive loan debt will saddle most college graduates and will further the economic divide that is growing each day.  College costs must be addressed, in addition to affordable loans. –Sara M., Illinois

Education corporatization/privatization

I am increasingly concerned about the claims that education is being “funded” adequately when, in fact, money is being diverted from public schools, with public accountability, to private and corporate institutions. I am concerned with both the practice AND the misleading rhetoric.–Margaret S., Ohio

Human rights

I feel as if we addressed many of the issues in this country under the topic of “human rights”, then they might be addressed and accepted better. For example, if we talked about the poverty issues, healthcare, school safety, gun safety and education affordability as human rights, then people might start fighting for them, and stop fighting against them. –Sharon D., Virginia
School safety

School safety is CRITICAL!!!  We need immediate gun control– LIKE MOST OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE– NOW! –Mitchell B., Pennsylvania

We must have comprehensive immigration reform that allows all immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Too many people who contribute positively to our society live in constant fear. –Stacey A., Iowa
We have a dedicated work force ready to become citizens.  Since our politicians haven’t bothered to attempt a solution to fix our broken immigration system, let’s make ‘em citizens! –Clayton G., Nevada

No Child Left Behind is at the core of attacks upon the profession of teaching.  These one size fits all fixes that states and districts have been bribed and bludgeoned into accepting have the assumption of “bad teachers” at their core.  They perpetuate the myth that the solution to education lies outside the teaching profession and that society is falling apart because teachers are failing their students. –Robert J., Michigan

ESEA/NCLB are tearing up my school!  We are jumping through so many purposeless hoops, we are losing time to take care of and teach the kids that are right in front of us. We can increase rigor and accountability without some of the strings stapled to the federal money we so desperately need.  Want to make a headline tomorrow night?  Switch gears on education!—P. K. G., Idaho