Short Changing Our Kids
It’s certainly hard to build consensus on any solution when the parties involved have diametrically opposed views of the problem. Such is the case with the fate of our democracy.
Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi marked the somber one year mark since the assault on the nation’s Capitol saying, “One year ago, the Capitol and those who work within it were targeted in a violent insurrection that sought to undermine democracy.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Reps Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene marked they day by walking “the grounds that patriotic Americans walked from the White House to the Capitol who had no intent of breaking the law or doing violence.”
Two entirely different narratives of the same event. It’s hard to reconcile.
An even more insidious threat to our democracy is happening in Pennsylvania where the underfunding of public schools means a less educated citizenry, weakening the protection that people provide in self-governance. Will Bunch, the esteemed columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, made this point eloquently in his column about the competing narratives in the historic school funding lawsuit, aptly entitled America gave up on truly educating all its kids. Then Jan. 6 happened. Coincidence?
Matthew Splain, superintendent of the rural Otto-Eldred School District, testified in PA’s historic school funding trial, where parents and school district plaintiffs assert that the state is violating its constitutional obligation to fund the schools. Splain calmly went chapter and verse through the challenges his district faces because it has too few resources to offer a decent education to his students. In his world, the teaching of biology and middle school math like Algebra is simply the basics.
In what is described as nothing short of a whiplash moment, the attorney representing the Senate Republicans, keen to show that what schools want to do is over-educate students, asked Splain, “What use would a carpenter have for biology?” and “What use would someone on the McDonald’s career track have for Algebra 1?” These senators actually permitted their lawyer to argue that a basic understanding of science and math is far more than what is needed.
And speaking of math, here’s some addition that’s relevant to compute. The state is shorting the schools by at least $2.3 billon. The irony is that only a week after the world view of educators and the majority party in Harrisburg collided in the courtroom, official news of swelling state revenues was released indicating the state coffers are already running $1.5 billion over the estimate for this year and there’s still six months left in the year. Add to that, the state ended last year with $5 billion in the black. That means the state has $6.5 billion it can spend to meet the people’s needs, especially public education.
There’s really no need to debate in court if our children should learn math and science. No parent cradles a newborn and wishes them a lifetime of “Do you want fries with that?” But clearly, in some alternative universe, some state legislators do.