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|Lancaster, Chester, Berks Counties, PA||April 22, 2008 Election|
By Bruce A. SlaterCandidate for US Representative; District 16; Democratic Party
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Public schools, and other community institutions, must be considered essential to the future of our nation. The NEA survey above raises many pertinent and pressing issues. In the hope that every child may attend a great public school, I believe the following priorities must be met.Local control: Ask citizens whether they believe schools, in general, are getting the job done for today's kids and they may answer "No." But ask parents whether they trust their local school to provide a safe and complete education for their child, and they will most likely reply, "Yes." This is especially true in areas where parents are involved in their children's school. They know and trust the teachers, curriculum, and local school directors. That involvement translates into student achievement, decreased drop out rates, and post-graduation success. Local control makes all the difference. With proper funding support, it is local entities - parents and teachers, administrators and school directors working together - who know their community and can best supply solutions such as use of space or education of specific student populations. A representative of these people would carry their needs and concerns to the Congress rather than voting for mandates that may tie up money which could be better used in other programs.
Funding: While local communities may well be the best decision makers for their respective school districts, they can no longer bear the full financial responsibility for community schools. Federal and state mandates, greater demand for specialized instruction, and rising costs for everything from energy to paper, make the local school district budget a nightmare. Federal and state funding at the full subsidy level is essential. Full funding protects our communities and helps reduce the inequities within the system. We need to ensure that inner city and rural schools are on a par with our more affluent suburban schools
Best Practice: The inherent flaws of the No Child Left Behind Act and subsequent threats to local district authority have caused many schools to attempt to solve broad problems with a one-size-fits-all solution or embrace costly programs offering a quick fix. We must allow our schools to return to collaborative dialogue on best practice scenarios and support the educators and institutions that have successfully demonstrated the value of those practices.
Support for communities and families: It is rare that our schools fail academically where the student population is constant and preparedness for school takes place in the home. Schools fail when its students and their families lack a stable environment that includes such necessities as food, housing, and healthcare. We cannot cure the ills of society through educational funding, but we can set clear priorities for that funding. Where the focus of an educational program is testing as opposed to providing a quality educational environment, our schools are being set up to fail. How can schools meet their educational objectives when surrounding societal conditions are beyond the control of the educational institution? Money spent on testing before it is spent on pre-school, child care, family support programs, and other community needs, is money wasted.
Professional pay and respect: It seems we never really appreciate those in public service. Public defenders, health and safety professionals, and, of course, educators, rarely receive thanks from their communities let alone salaries that are competitive with other professions. Respect and professional salaries are essential if we are to find and keep willing and experienced personnel. As your representative in Congress, I would support the unions and associations that represent those professions as partners in finding the solutions our communities' needs.
Control of public spending and support for public institutions help keep our communities strong. Our students profit, of course, in the academic preparedness we offer them through our public schools and community programs. Our elderly are well served when federal and state funding match such mandates as those in the No Child Left Behind Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. School taxes could be controlled and other tax money could be available and be better spent throughout the community.
All of this is possible with a change of leadership in Washington, D.C. and is one of the reasons I hope to be the next Congressman from Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional district.
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