What’s Next?

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The recent national election portends a significant shift in the direction of federal education policy in the United States and raises serious concerns for those of us who care about equity and an opportunity to learn for all students.

Our work has never been more important.

Donald Trump’s education transition leader has indicated that Trump’s administration will focus on expanding school choice by redirecting billions of dollars in existing federal funding to charter and private schools.

He also signaled that the Trump administration could significantly limit the role of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education. The mission of the OCR is, “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.”

Given the incendiary rhetoric from the Trump campaign about immigrants, Muslims, and people of color, the prospect of our federal government limiting the role of the OCR and abandoning its commitment to protect students from discrimination is chilling.

And we must stand up for them.

In the election here in Pennsylvania, Republicans in both the House and Senate gained even greater majorities. As we head into another difficult budget season, we can expect to see continued polarization in Harrisburg. We can also expect to see more pressure on lawmakers to support charter school legislation that benefits special interests at the expense of children in our school districts.

So, where do we go from here?

Today, our work as advocates for equity and an opportunity to learn for all students in PA is critical.  We must overcome the divisiveness of the national election.  We must speak up against hateful rhetoric and actions that hurt our children, divide communities and pit us against each other. We must come together to fight for the schools our children will need in order to have a bright future.

We cannot accept the deep deprivation in our children’s schools, and we cannot accept Pennsylvania’s corrupt charter school law that allows individuals to reap profits off of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars at the expense of our children.

We have been leaders in achieving a fair funding formula and the restoration of more than $400 million in funding to our children’s schools. We prevented Pennsylvania from enacting a voucher system. We have kept at bay charter school legislation that would have weakened public education in PA.  Our work has made a real impact on the lives of children throughout the Commonwealth.

Now we must double down on our efforts and do even more. We must engage more people in discussions about the vital role of our public schools and the policies that will expand their children’s opportunities.  We must continue to build coalitions and bring our message to more communities in order to demand that more state lawmakers support our children and their public schools.

We can be sad, we can be worried, but we can’t disengage or give up. Pennsylvania’s children need us and we can’t let them down.