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Friday, May 25, 2012

Parents and Community Leaders Respond to Call to Action

All week long, people across Pennsylvania have been taking action to show their support for public education. There were tens of thousands of actions taken: people made calls, spoke at meetings, attended rallies, visited elected officials, signed petitions, got on buses, talked to their neighbors – we heard a few people from another organizations even got arrested! Dozens of organizations, associations and hundreds of individuals sent out the Call to Action information to their networks. All of it was to say “we support an opportunity to learn for every child, and public education is a good public investment” and to ask the people we have elected to stand up for what we stand for.

Here are some of the things people did:

One group of parents got together and wrote letters to their elected officials. They have been reaching out, and this one group generated 165 letters so far. "With massive layoffs in one area school district, significant cuts to Allentown programs, and classrooms with more than 30 elementary school children in them, Lehigh Valley schools can't take any more cuts," said Dana. "Lehigh Valley parents want education funding restored and will keep writing and calling until legislators and the Governor hear us!"

Another group boarded a bus and went to Harrisburg on Tuesday. "I led a delegation of ten parents and six kids to Harrisburg, where we lobbied more than a dozen of our representatives," said Kathy. "The children showed us that they could be great advocates for their own cause. They presented staffers in Representative Turzai's office with a packet of letters from children in his district. They told his receptionist: 'We are here because we love our school and we want it to stay a great school. Shouldn't grownups care as much as we do about our education?'"

Laurie sent us a text from a meeting to tell us that their Senator remarked that other Senators were commenting on how many calls they were getting!

The Governor is feeling the heat: they sent out a very defensive press statement on our Call-In Day trying to spin their education budget cuts. It’s these types of things that let us know that these calls are making a real impact!

Here’s what just a couple of people who made calls had to say about their experience:

  • “I expressed my concern regarding the impact of budget cuts on special education in the Shippensburg Area School District and I expressed how this is a big concern for parents of children with learning disabilities. The staff member was receptive and asked for details of my concern. She advised she would relay the information.” - Amanda R. (Cumberland County)
  • “When I asked that the Governor and the PA Legislator reinstate cuts, Stuart at Governor Corbett's office insisted to me that there were no cuts to the district that came from the state level last year. He says that the only cuts were the result of lost stimulus money. I challenged him on this but he insisted this was the case. It was a very frustrating conversation.” - Anne B. (Philadelphia County) Read about the stimulus money HERE.

There were large rallies that took place in several cities. In Harrisburg, more than 1,000 students from the Harrisburg School District gathered on the Capitol steps to protest cuts to public education that are hitting places like Harrisburg the hardest.

Students paid a visit to legislators, including the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Jeff Piccola, to deliver letters and talk about why these cuts are severely compromising their future. Read the full article on this rally HERE. There were big rallies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia too – with students, parents, educators and community members.

Clearly people across the state have already stepped up to let Harrisburg know that we support public schools and do not want these cuts, but the next few weeks will be important and there will be more to do. There is legislation on a number of education related policies, including topics such as special education, charter schools and financially distressed school districts (and we hope vouchers will stay off the agenda and there won’t be any funny business attempt to sneak it through!), that may move or be voted on sometime next month. We will keep a close eye on these issues and expect to ask you to take action again in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, the staff and volunteers at Education Voters are very proud to be a part of this network of people willing to speak up for our students. Thank you again for everything you are doing to support public education, and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

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