Public education is a civil right

By Doug Rosenberry

As both a public school teacher of 21 years and a former student in the Altoona Area School District, I have seen firsthand the impact a quality education can have on a child’s life.

Pennsylvania was one of the first states in the nation to establish a free public education system for all children. It was considered a priority at the time as a means of creating an educated citizenry and promoting democracy.

Although many would argue differently, public education has been and continues to be one of our nation’s greatest success stories.

Our public schools were never intended to be part of the free enterprise system. Educating children is not and never should be about making money.

However, that is exactly what has happened in the last 30 years as free market profiteers have found ways to make money off of the education we provide to our children by pushing for so-called “reform.”

For these profiteers, “reform” is directly connected to the bottom line, and, of course, that means making money; the top priority is not about the quality of education provided to our children. In many cases, it means diverting public tax dollars from public schools into private or for-profit schools.

These reforms have taken the form of vouchers, cyber and charter schools, and educational savings accounts. The sad reality is that many of these programs have done little to help students, especially those in urban and high poverty areas.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, at

4 p.m., there will be a free special screening of the new documentary Backpack Full of Cash in the PSU Altoona Devorris Downtown Center at 1431 12th Avenue, Altoona, PA.

This documentary follows the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities where public education – starved of resources and undermined by privatization – is at risk.

The documentary also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey – where impoverished students are experiencing success without charters or vouchers.

If you care about the future of our children and their civil right to have a quality public education, please plan to attend this special screening. Following the film, there will be a panel discussion including both K-12 and higher education teachers and students.

To find out more about the documentary, you can visit the film’s official website at www.backpackfullofcash.com.

Rosenberry is the president of the Altoona Area Education Association.