July 25, 2017 • BLOG ENTRY

Proud Product of Public Education

In less than one week, my daughter will graduate from Cornell University. It is not only my alma mater, but my mother’s, as well. Each of us had vastly different upbringings, but we had one thing in common: our public educations gave us each the opportunity to attend one of the finest universities in this country (and I’d argue, the world).

My mom grew up as the middle daughter of Eastern European refugees. My grandparents fled their respective countries to escape religious persecution and were lucky to find refuge in the U.S. My grandfather had a brilliant mind, but he never had the opportunity for a formal education. My mom and her siblings benefited from their public educations. In fact, my mom matriculated into Cornell’s School of Agriculture and Life Science, which is one of Cornell’s three land-grant colleges, thus continuing her public education.

My mother, me, and my daughter.

Upon graduating from Cornell, my mother became a public school teacher. She went back to teaching while my sister and I were in elementary school. At night, she attended classes, earning her masters in guidance and became a high school guidance counselor right here in Westfield.

I grew up in Springfield and I’m a proud graduate of Jonathan Dayton Regional High School. My high school never won any awards, but I was lucky to be taught by men and women who instilled a love of education. After graduating from Cornell, practicing law, raising my children and volunteering in the community, I became a public elementary school substitute teacher. I’ve seen the difference that teachers make in the lives of their students. They do this as class sizes grow, standardized testing takes away from learning, budgets are cut, and teachers and students are forced to spend time practicing lockdowns. No teacher I know works 8:30 to 3:00. They come in early, stay late, take work home and work over the summer so that their students realize the full advantage of their public education.

And now public education faces an additional threat: Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and this president. Mr. Trump just signed an executive order that, among other things, scraps federal accountability rules. The likely result will be schools that fail poor children, minorities and English-language learners and students with disabilities. The very same students that need quality public education the most. Without federal oversight, we are likely to see a return of predatory lending, a lack of funding for research (which is how curriculums are developed) and a failure to provide quality education to all students, especially the most vulnerable.

In a public school in America there is the next Steve Jobs, Maya Angelou, and Jonas Salk. Every child needs the opportunity to realize his or her potential and the best chance they have to do that is through quality public education. As it was for my mother and for me, quality public education is the first step in achieving the American dream.