Prioritizing Resources For Equitable Public Education
Supporting traditional public schools, providing teachers the resources they need to support students, funding programs that allow immigrants and refugees to flourish, and supporting students with disabilities.
Supporting traditional public schools
Everyone has a choice of how they want to educate their children, but it is critical that we ensure that PPS is able to meet the needs of all of their students. We should focus on targeted and intentional improvements for equitable education, not approving more and more charter schools.
Because of state laws, money and resources are siphoned away from traditional public schools and given to charter schools. As a result, students at PPS receive less support, which encourages parents to seek alternative educational options. More families leaving PPS creates further revenue losses for the district, perpetuating the cycle of decreasing enrollment.
Pittsburgh’s charter schools also face issues of equity among Black and white students; widening the achievement gap among students of color. We should be focusing on evidence-based mechanisms for closing the achievement gap, ensuring an equitable education for Black students and students of color.
Instead of creating one good public school district, charter schools have created even more silos for education that will ultimately leave vulnerable students, especially students of color and kids with disabilities, behind academically, socially and emotionally.
We must hold charter schools accountable in the same ways that traditional public schools are. Board members in PPS are democratically elected, hold meetings in the public realm, and are responsible for passing budgets under stringent rules from the state. We must close these and other loopholes, including the special education funding formula for charters, in order to ensure that tax dollars are used responsibly and effectively, instead of creating slush funds for charter schools.
Providing teachers the resources they need to support students
Teachers are vital to the success of Pittsburgh Public Schools, which is why it is crucial that school board members respect and protect their right to organize and collectively bargain. The district believes “teachers have a profound impact on student development, and should have ample training, support and resources”, and PPS should be living up to that mission.
For years, teachers in PPS have requested support by way of professional development, specifically in regards to special education and classroom management. PPS must provide high quality, engaging, and effective professional development for all staff, focusing specifically on the areas of need identified by employees.
Teachers must be given the time and autonomy to create engaging and thoughtful lessons for students instead of worrying about teaching to standardized tests. Class sizes must be reduced, from elementary to high school, in order to allow teachers to provide personalized instruction and needed supports to students - especially after the current global pandemic. Our kids need the time, space, and structure in order to make up for the detrimental effects that COVID-19 has had on the educational system.
Funding programs that allow immigrants and refugees to flourish
Jamie began her career in 2014 as a refugee resettlement caseworker and spent countless hours enrolling new students in Pittsburgh Public schools, many of whom did not speak English. The District is diverse, and its students represent 57 different countries and 95 different native languages with a total of 1,108 English Language Learners. However, ESL courses are not available at every school and students must travel across neighborhoods to receive an appropriate education. Schools can become overburdened with an influx of ESL students, especially in the higher grade levels. The fact that only 2 high schools offer ESL courses is unacceptable.
The global refugee crisis means there will continually be new students attending schools who are non-native English speakers and PPS should be working now to adopt ESL programs at every school. In addition to ESL programs, schools should be equipped with the resources to help immigrant and refugee students who have faced significant traumas and stressors prior to arriving in the United States. Pittsburgh Public Schools should expand partnerships with non-profit organizations that resettle and assist immigrants and refugees and should especially work with immigrant and refugee community groups to help meet the needs of students.
Supporting students with disabilities
It is imperative that the district ensures that all students with disabilities receive an equitable education that allows them to achieve their fullest potential. Students should learn in unrestrictive environments using evidence-based curriculum and instruction that addresses an individual's academic, social, emotional, and vocational needs.
Pittsburgh Public Schools has historically struggled with serving students with 504 plans and IEPs. Special education lawsuits have plagued the district and these mistakes cost taxpayers significant amounts of money. The district should utilize best practices to optimize student achievement through data-driven decisions that inform assessment, instruction, and progress monitoring. Teachers should have access to educational resources to enhance their professional learning and instructional support to drive high exceptions and achievement of students.
Jamie will collaborate with all stakeholders including students, families, community members, and PPS staff to ensure students with disabilities receive optimal instruction and support.