Dear Pennsylvania Governor or to whomever puts this is the paper shredder:
One, two, three, four? FOUR textbooks for a class of 32 students.
That’s what I’ve been handed to teach my students.
I’ve been working as a teacher since I got out of graduate school 6 years ago. It’s my passion. I love learning from my students and challenging our thinking. My job requires many hours of unpaid overtime but it is what is required to be an effective and caring teacher. I’m not asking for a raise; rather I am advocating for my students. I teach five classes of 33 students and am responsible for 33 additional students in my advisory. My budget for my 198 students is as empty of nutrients as a Mcdonald’s ice cream machine. I buy what I can - pencils to tissues to copy paper. Most of my students’ families can not afford basic school supplies. Other students work to support their families. Each day is a balancing act; I question how much longer I can compromise. We only have 20 mixed matched desks and six extra chairs; some of my kids have to stand up. Have you ever made a seating chart with no seats?
I continue teaching and learning with these wonderful kids who deserve much better because they remind me of the power of community. They are generous and concerned young people full of potential. While some people may believe investing in more affluent and powerful students is a better deal, investing in my students will have more impact. Students from more affluent and well connected families are more likely to make it. They have been given opportunities from birth. Meanwhile, my students are treated as second class citizens in old, dilapidated facilities without the basics. The 100 year old floor creaks; the 1950s clock stopped ticking thirty years ago. It is as if my students’ lunch line is serving leftovers and crumbs. My student ask for more but I can’t answer or provide everything for them. I’m one man.
Imagine going to a school where you are told to meet high stakes standards but have few tools to begin building. I bring in paper and pencils but then am told to have everyone do a science fair project. They can’t all submit moldy bread science fair projects! My fellow co-workers and I try to say something positive but the illusion has worn off. We turn to parent volunteers parents who have time to come to school and can scrape together the bus fare. We also volunteer by sponsoring clubs and tutoring for free. It is not enough. In a world demanding innovation and creativity, we are stifling the future leaders by underfunding their education and underappreciating their potential.
I know I live in a state where the elderly are better cared for than children. It apparently is acceptable to have high rates of childhood poverty. Yes, my students do not vote so you may not consider them your constituents. They can not fund your campaigns nor make you more powerful. When politician say “I will fix the system and bring equality and justice to the people,” we want to believe you. But, the justice and equality never happens. Do you want to know why? Because, the politician do not amend the system; the system amends the politicians. The politician must remember their power lies with all the people; otherwise, I no longer live in a democracy. Too often, when someone is in a position to change the world, they stab the world in the back. Words mean nothing if they are not backed up by action; I am waiting for the action.
The passion for education is dying because we have been set up to fail. While I tell myself, “we must do more,” we can not do it alone. Our students deserve more; they are counting on you. We live in a country where we are told we are equal under the law. How is inequitable and unjust funding of public schools equality under the law? If we properly support our public schools, the lives of our students will improve which will improve the quality of life for everyone in our country. Mr. Governor, please open your heart and mind to my students. Work to provide fair and equitable funding for public schools. Let my students know they have a chance to reach their full potential.
Sincerely, Mr. Queen