One of the questions I was asked last night at the school board candidate's forum was whether or not I believed education was a basic right of everyone. My answer was a simple and unequivocal YES.
I suspect most people would agree with me, at least in principle. But this principle has a number of implications that make some people less comfortable. Most importantly, it forces us to address the thorny issues around funding public education. A belief in the right to education is meaningless if not accompanied by action to make this right a reality for everyone in our community.
Local taxpayers take on 28% of the cost of public schools on average nationally. Most of the rest is made up by state funding. In Pennsylvania, however, the state leaves local taxpayers footing 44% of the bill (detailed reports available here). We need reform of the state's fundinThis lack of support from Harrisburg is unfair to local taxpayers. It is also leads to enormous inequality between the opportunities given to students who happen to live in different districts.
This last point is made movingly in a 24-minute film entitled Education: A Human Right that premiered just last week. The film was created by students in the Pittsburgh area, in conjunction with the Youth Media Advocacy Project, American Friends Service Committee, Carlow University, and Steeltown Entertainment.