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PSEA Releases 20 Ways to Improve Public Education

During the 2010-11 school year, Pennsylvania ranked 47th in the U.S. in terms of state funding for public education.

Releasing a report that outlines 20 ways to improve public schooling, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is trying to get the state to the top of its class.

The 104-page report suggests: ensuring students’ access to arts education, extracurricular activities and school safety; focusing on districts with high poverty levels; providing tutoring programs for struggling students; and reducing the high school dropout rate.

PSEA President Michael Crossey said there’s no reason why some of these low-cost suggestions shouldn’t be implemented.

“Putting some mentoring programs between elementary and middle school, between middle school and high school,” he said, “some of those kinds of programs that aren’t super expensive, but make a difference for kids, something as simple as a mentoring program can help us reduce the dropout rate.”

The list includes investing in early childhood care and education; maximizing academic learning time; reversing the trend of increasing class sizes; and encouraging parent, family and community involvement to support student learning.

It also calls for improving student assessments, new teacher induction and mentoring, supporting quality teacher preparation, updating the state’s charter school law and improving programs and funding for special education.

Crossey said he doesn’t expect lawmakers to use the report as a “playbook.”

“We know some of these things won’t happen because some of these things cost money,” he said, “and we haven’t gotten great funding in the last couple of years. Some of the problems we have in our schools is because of the fact that we’ve had close to a billion dollars in funding cut from our schools.”

The PSEA, which represents 492 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, said its goal is to take these solutions to lawmakers to influence legislation and regulation.

The report also states that Pennsylvania needs to find a way to adequately fund public education and restore school funding. Because of the 2011-12 cuts to public education, school districts lost the equivalent to 3.4 percent of their revenue, according to the report.

The average teacher salary in Pennsylvania was $61,934 in 2011-12, with the average educator having about 13 years of experience, according to the report. In the last 15 years, the average teacher salary has decreased by 7.8 percent compared to the “price of goods and services.”