ALEXANDRIA, VA. (February 13, 2013)—The following statement can be attributed to National PTA® President Betsy Landers:
The 2013 State of the Union, an annual address delivered by the President of the United States before Members of Congress, showcased several of National PTA’s key concerns related to the education, health and safety of children. National PTA praises President Barack Obama’s support of mitigating the impact of sequestration on education, ensuring school safety, providing early childhood education, helping students become college- and career-ready and engaging men in the lives of children.
The President, however, failed to directly address comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In 2013, National PTA urges Congress to take bipartisan action to address needed changes to the law governing the federal role in public education. Although administrative regulatory relief provided to states through the ESEA flexibility program is addressing some flaws of the law, it is not an acceptable substitute for bipartisan legislative action on comprehensive reauthorization.
Even with the absence of this commitment, the President’s emphasis on education in the State of the Union address was commendable.
Mitigating the Impact of Sequestration on Education
President Obama labeled the across-the-board federal budget cut known as sequestration as “a really bad idea” and noted that these “sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts” would “devastate priorities like education.”
National PTA predicts the cuts on education would directly lead to larger classroom sizes and fewer teachers; the loss of after-school and enrichment programming; reductions in services for special education students; the erosion of quality early childhood education options for low-income children; and less financial assistance for postsecondary education. In addition, this hatchet approach to cutting support for education will have a disproportion impact on Title I schools as they depend more heavily on federal dollars than higher income schools.
Congress must acknowledge that sequestration is a problem, not a solution; a mistake that would decimate public education and derail any hope of long-term, sustained economic well-being and growth.
Ensuring School Safety
President Obama reminded Congress that what matters the most to Americans is “to protect our most precious resource, our children.”
Since December, three U.S. schools have reported a traumatic shooting—an elementary school in Connecticut, a middle school in Georgia and a high school in California. No corner of this country, no demographic has been spared from gun violence. In the past decade, since the Columbine High School shooting, more than 125 schools have suffered this same fate; and other incidents of violence, harassment, and abuse far outnumber those that make the headlines.
National PTA will continue to make safety the utmost priority for its programmatic and advocacy work. This year, we have already taken action related to safe routes to school, bullying prevention, mental health services and the protection of children from gun violence.
National PTA urges Congress to enact the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013 and other bipartisan solutions to prevent gun violence.
Providing Early Childhood Education
President Obama proposed working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.
“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on—by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime,” he said. “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job and form more stable families of their own.”
National PTA supports making quality childcare and preschool programs affordable and accessible through federal and state incentives.
Helping Students Become College- and Career-Ready
President Obama announced a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.
“We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math—the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future,” he said.
National PTA will continue to work with Congress to increase coordination in the implementation of ESEA-No Child Left Behind, ensuring that all students graduate college- and career-ready, and that family engagement remains a fundamental principle in education.
Engaging Men in the Lives of Children
President Obama also said he would be doing more to encourage fatherhood—“because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.”
Nationally, we are seeing more men getting involved in their child’s education, but not nearly enough. Studies show students perform better when mothers and fathers are both engaged in the education of their children. National PTA believes that dads and male mentors need to be more engaged and need to encourage other men to make a difference in the lives of our nation’s children. PTA is committed to engaging more fathers and male role models so that they are involved in the children’s education.
Just this past weekend National PTA hosted the 2013 Male Engagement Conference in Kansas City. The three-day conference featured sessions and workshops led by other leading experts who provided tips, best practices and resources to engage fathers, grandfathers and other important male figures in education, reduce bullying and bring male mentors into schools nationwide.
Families are counting on Congress to overcome the partisan divide and do right by our nation’s students. National PTA looks forward to continued dialogue with Congress and the Administration to further promote educational equity, safe learning environments for all children and increased family engagement.
About National PTA
National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of parent involvement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth.