These are tough days for public schools. Districts across the state are facing cuts while legacy retirement costs explode. School leaders are forced to make incredibly tough decisions about curricula, consolidations, furloughs, and extracurricular activities.
There are plenty of reasons to fret about the future, especially as charter and magnet schools continue to erode limited tax support for our public schools. It is especially worrisome for new and prospective educators, particularly those graduating this spring as countless districts are cutting teachers.
Against this frightening backdrop, it is important to be reminded of some history. We have not always had free public schools available to all in Pennsylvania or the rest of the United States. Think about that for a moment. Can you imagine a community without public schools?
Much of what informed the framers of the Constitution can be traced to William Penn. His views on religious freedom, representative government, and the value of education profoundly influenced the founders.
This year marks the 175th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s first free and public educational system, founded in Upper Darby. It was born of the spirit of the Revolution. Yet it took more than a half-century after the founding of the country to be realized, and 119 years after the death of William Penn.