Why a PA guy is fulfilling his teaching dream in MN


When I told my family members (who live in Philadelphia) I was going back to school to become a teacher, their initial reaction was: “Why?”

However, my in-laws (Minnesotans) had a very different reaction to the news: “That’s terrific!”

At first, I just figured different families, different priorities.  But I noticed a consistent reaction to my career choice.  My long-time friends and people from the Philadelphia area, where I grew up, were somewhat discouraging of my decision.  Those whom I’ve met in Minnesota were extremely supportive.

It occurred to me that here in Minnesota we look up to teachers as community leaders, shapers of young minds. In Philly, they’re sometimes seen as people who couldn’t hack it in the real world.  This, I believe, has a lot to do with the leadership set by government to make a strong investment in schools. Even those cutting educating funding still try to paint the numbers as if they’re “holding education harmless” because they know how much Minnesota voters value public education.

While Pennsylvania, especially under Gov. Ed Rendell, has tried making education investment a priority, its current funding formula is inadequate to address the disparities among low-property tax wealth and high-property tax wealth districts.

In Penn., the state contributes roughly 35% – 45% of local education funds, depending on the district.  As a partial result, quality of schools in lower-wealth areas is typically low, according to the Education Law Center.  This leads many people living in places, such as Philly, to assume it’s the teachers’ fault; thus the poor opinion from the general public of teachers in certain areas.

We’ll probably never have that opinion of Minnesota teachers. But the state isn’t doing much to support them in the classroom.  In Minn., the 2002-2003 legislature set up an ideal to have the state contribute 90% of funding for local schools, preventing large disparities in accessing quality education.

But even here in MN, state contributions for K-12 education are slipping, dropping an inflation adjusted 14% since 2003.  It’s no PA, but the state is putting much more pressure on low-property wealth districts to maintain equal and adequate funding so that all Minnesota kids have access to a great education.