The development of an educated public must never be allowed to take a back seat to making short-term profits. With a longer view, it is clear that education is a source of economic growth and so much more. “What people know matters” (Hanushek & Woessmann, 2010, p. 251).
Sadly, despite the impact of education and libraries on society and the economy, states continue to cut their funding. The conservative cry for less government and more local control could not be a more hollow sentiment given the lack of attention to local control itself.
In Pennsylvania, education is simply not a high priority. Overall, education funding will be increased a mere 3.22% and not in areas that suggest lasting improvement. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has increased funding for “Ready to Learn Block Grants” that are designed to stimulate student outcomes at the elementary level. These grants would also support teacher training in order meet grant objectives. However, that is only one data point among many in a budget that either decreases or flattens funding on numerous other programs.
- Community college funding is set to go down .38%
- Higher education funding will remain flat for the third year in a row.
- Job training programs are being cut out of the budget – that is 8.5 million in funding towards these programs!
- Library access funding is set to decrease by more than 8%.
- Public library subsidies are only getting a paltry .93% increase after no increases in three years.
This is like leaving an $.80 tip for a $25 dinner. If you ask any server, that’s an insult.
The library in my own community of State College, PA is closed this week. It is closed to save money. I wrote a letter to our legislators who are in support of these cuts. I have copied that letter below. To write your own letter, please visit the Schlow Library website.
Expect more closings of public services and cuts to education programs. To say that Tom Corbett and his supporters undervalue the public trust of education is a sad understatement.
Tell our state government to wake up and fund public libraries!
Public and civic education used to be a unique element of American liberty. The library has been at the center of American life with the college and the religious community. Yet funding education in all of its forms seems to be an afterthought in this state government.
While industry is important in many respects, once the gas is used up, the jobs will disappear again and towns will shut down all over Pennsylvania. The rich will take their money and run. Companies investing in Pennsylvania will go back to Houston and overseas fat and happy. It has happened before; it will happen again.
Freedom is not built on global industry; it is built on public knowledge and trust. When we stop funding public education and community development, of which libraries are a central resource, our liberty is clipped at the root. This begs the question: What kind of liberty do our representatives espouse? Shall we defend carrying guns rather than books? True freedom begins in the mind and not in the holster or the bank account.
I cannot count the number of kids I see with books at the library. People like reading and learning. It is empowering and baptizes the imaginations to push thinking and doing. The library is a place where communities can thrive. My kids love that place. We go and there to read, then walk in town grabbing some water ice at Rita’s, or walk up to the Creamery. It is part of our culture. We represent one family along many others in this town who enjoy that outlet on a regular basis.
Stop defunding education in all of its forms. Stop defunding community development and civic engagement. Give us back our libraries and support our schools. It is these investments that will build deeper roots into the economic and community soil of this state.
Not supporting the collective education of the community is a disgrace to this nation and to the very notion of liberty to which all Americans are entitled. It is our right.
Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.