We hear quite a bit in the media about how public education could and should improve and the various crises public education is facing. Many of these discussions are valuable. However, sometimes we overlook the importance of a key factor that relates to nearly every discussion of this nature — that factor is funding.
Over the past several years, Pennsylvania’s public schools have been significantly affected by rapidly escalating state pension costs. To meet these pension obligations, which are defined by the state system, school districts have had to designate a greater and greater share of available revenues every year. This leaves less funding available for investment in the true basic education costs directed toward student learning.
Unfortunately, school districts cannot control pension costs. Instead, we have to consider options like cutting expenses for direct classroom instruction and extra help for students; reducing programs in music, art or athletics; or putting off the maintenance of our facilities.
It is time for the General Assembly to make pension reform a top priority. Our state legislators have the ability to find a solution for this crisis and take action. Right now we are feeling the pressure of a situation that has been 10 years in the making, but without swift and significant change, consequences for the students and the taxpayers of Pennsylvania are foreboding and far-reaching.
Simply stated, we cannot let the public pension crisis become a monster that consumes our public school systems. We have a responsibility to our children and their future to find a fair and productive solution to this situation now.
RAYMOND D. GUALTIERI
Superintendent of Schools
North Allegheny School District