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With the impending election less than two weeks away, the decisions we will make in early November are critical to the future of our country. These votes will determine our nation’s next President and other political leaders at every level of government. Those elected will have a significant impact on the policies that are enacted and the funding that is earmarked for our nation’s public schools.

Public education is integral to the future of our country because it allows individuals to secure better jobs, leads to reduced crime rates, and ultimately affects the overall health of our country’s citizens.

Further, public schools matter because they provide a means to escape the perils of poverty. When these institutions are underfunded as a result of the decisions of our elected officials, teachers’ salaries and benefits are often inadequate. Because teachers are underpaid in many instances, these dedicated professionals often seek other economic opportunities leaving many classrooms understaffed in those areas where class size and quality teachers matter the most.

Additionally, when policy makers refuse to adequately fund schools, funding for textbooks and often limited. The result is that building leaders are either forced to purchase resources out-of-pocket or they are prevented from purchasing resources that are vitally needed in their schools. Who suffers in this instance? Once again, the learners are the victims. Students are left without equal access to resources that will support their learning and development. Oftentimes this underfunding also is reflected in the limiting of specialized services such as gifted and talented classes, special needs education, and vocational/technical programs. When we do not support public schools, there is a detrimental effect on the lives of students in these programs as well, essentially locking them out of the supports needed to foster their growth in the academic arena.

Through our Civic Academy, PPS has provided parents with tools to assist in making informed voting decisions. As a result of the candid discussions during the Academy, parents are made aware of the repercussions school vouchers have on schools as well as the perils of privatizing public schools. Parents have been empowered to mobilize their efforts and spread the message about the attacks on public education. Parents also committed to registering citizens to vote, to meeting with candidates, and to hosting Accountability Sessions. The Academy’s ultimate goal is to have public school supporters vote for candidates who are committed to increasing funding for public schools and who will oppose efforts to privatize public education.

Our votes must align with candidates who believe in our country’s public education system because they understand its significance to our continued prosperity. The people we elect should value and support our nation’s public schools and they should work hard to ensure that this country’s students have everything they need to assist them in becoming productive citizens.

As it stands, public schools produce almost 90% of our country’s labor force, and each of these students deserve the best education possible; our economic future depends on it.