Mariyana Van Arsdale
Public education and how its funded has been a debated issue for a long time in America. On Saturday, Dec 3, social studies teacher Donna Oppedisano and several of her students met with the newly elected state officials to discuss the future of public education in New York State and in the U.S.
There were five officials at the breakfast hosted at the New York State United Teachers’ building in East Syracuse. Senator John DeFrancisco, Senator David Velasky’s legislative assistant, Assemblyman Will Barclay, Assemblyman Al Stirpe, and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter were all in attendance with moderator Grant Reehar. First there was a breakfast buffet from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and after breakfast there was an open panel discussion with all of the teachers and all the state officials where the teachers could ask questions of them. This was about an hour and then each school met with the official that represents their area.
The meeting was open to students and they were encouraged to ask any questions they had. Mrs. Oppedisano told her government classes about the breakfast, and seniors Thomas Edson, Michelle Pan, Jenny Hossain, and Seth Blair attended.
Students received a better understanding of public education from the breakfast, and the government officals helped to broaden their knowledge of it. For example, Edson developed a “concern for public education, especially with the appointment of Betsy DeVos.”
President-elect Donald Trump has appointed Betsy DeVos as the Education Secretary for the United States. Secretary DeVos is a strong proponent of private school education, and has donated a lot of her money to making private education better. She has proposed that the funding for public schools be given to parents in “voucher form” to use towards private or charter schooling.
Mrs. Oppedisano is unhappy with the appointment of DeVos due to her stance on public and private education. “Why do [private schools] not have to meet the same requirements as public schools?” asks Mrs. Oppedisano. She believes that public schools can truly promote democracy in our country, especially through social studies classes.
So far, the only plan set in stone for public eduacation in the country is that of the budget. There will be no new money to increase the amount of counselors or social service workers, and no new money to fund public schools, according to the elected officials.
“The state officials talked about how most public schools can’t afford a psychiatrist and how many students are suffereing from anxiety or depression, and it made me think about how lucky JD is to have so many people to help the students and so many people who care about them,” Hossain said.
“One thing they did talk about that teachers may like a little bit more is that the federal government may be less involved in states and in public school matters,” said Mrs. Oppedisano. With more control of education in the states’ hands, they can decide how much funding to give to public and private education rather than the government deciding.
Mrs. Oppedisano discussed how her students and the education they are receiving is very important to her. “Teachers care very dearly about their students and they would take time out of their day to talk about issues that involve their students,” said Blair.
It seems as though the teachers as well as the students were pleased with the event, it was a morning well spent for all who attended. “Pamela Hunter said she’s excited that we are participating in the breakfast and that we are the future of the government,” Blair said.