Each day, public school teachers and support staff employees see firsthand how societal inequalities are impacting their students.
This fact is merely a reflection on the unprecedented wealth and income inequality our nation is facing.
Economists have shown that the top 1 percent of American households today holds a larger share of income than at any time since 1928.
In Blair County, 22 percent of all children live in poverty, 2 percent higher than the state average and 8 percent higher than the national average.
As the adults in our communities, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that societal inequalities do not deter any child from reaching their full potential. If we fail our children, we fail the future of our communities.
This inequity is having a tremendous impact on public education. When students come to school hungry or without adequate parental support, it is more difficult for educators to help them to become responsible adults and to reach their full potential.
As educators, our job goes beyond what we do each day in our classroom. We are committed to helping our students, their families and our communities.
Last week, more than 70 Blair County teachers and support staff members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association collected hundreds of pounds of food for the Food Pantry at St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Our goal is to ensure that Blair County students and families have a bag of groceries for their Thanksgiving dinners. Don Belsey, the director of the Food Pantry, was able to fill his van with the groceries provided by the teachers and support staff, both active and retired.
The next project for Blair County PSEA members is to distribute free books to newborns and their parents at local hospitals. The PSEA associations have partnered with Barnes and Noble to promote the Books for Babies project.
The goal is to get a quality children's book into the hands of new parents with a message from local educators about the importance of reading to your child. It is important that parents know that our public schools and educators are ready to be their partners in helping to raise healthy and educated children.
For more than 150 years, the role of public education has been to help mitigate such societal disadvantages and to democratize opportunity.
No democracy can thrive without the democratization of opportunity. This is why public education matters now more than ever.
America's public schools are the cornerstone to our democracy. They are the heart and soul of every community. Our public schools in Blair County continue to offer every child an opportunity to achieve the American dream.
Todd Russell is a teacher at the Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School.