This is my living room—organized chaos.
You’ll note the toys I haven’t had time to put away and my 4-year-old son’s precious artwork on the walls. Candidates are not exactly known for their healthy lifestyle while campaigning. But what brought me to this chaos continues to inspire me through it. I’m a mom and a teacher, and that was just fine with me. But my experiences brought into focus just how much progress is yet to be made in Pennsylvania’s education system.
Public education in Pennsylvania is woefully underfunded and inequitable. While the districts in suburbia where I live may be in decent financial shape, travel 20 miles south to York City and you will find the most underfunded public school in the state. It frustrates me as a teacher to know that ZIP code determines future opportunities. The kids in York, Harrisburg and Lancaster are just as talented and deserving of opportunity as the kids in the suburbs, yet our state lawmakers do nothing to address the inequity because it might inconvenience their reelection bids. In 2009, I found my first teaching job in Pennsylvania’s Cameron County School District. I taught elementary band and general music for seven years. During my time in Cameron County, I saw firsthand how tough it is for rural school districts with declining populations to provide a fair education to all students. Just two years later, in 2011, then-Gov. Tom Corbett
delivered huge cuts to education funding. As a teacher in a rural school district, I saw who suffered when those cuts took place—the kids. I faced threat of budgetary furlough for several years before we relocated to the Harrisburg region. With school districts facing tough choices and angry taxpayers, it’s hard to explain why you’re keeping a music position if you can’t replace a classroom teacher. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I became active with the local chapter of
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, taking on the role of legislative lead for our local group before deciding to run for this seat. Seeing the impact that a small group can have on national politics was inspiring. Moms Demand Action grew from one upset mom on Facebook to millions of volunteers nationwide. This year, educators are following that example and rolling up their sleeves. Enough is enough. I’m standing up for kids this year and running for office myself. I want to work to ensure our schools are getting the resources they need, that our teachers are being adequately prepared for the classrooms they will nourish and our communities are safe places for children to learn and grow. I want to focus on an agenda that puts the people of Pennsylvania before the profits of corporations. And I want to work to eliminate the influence of money on politics, the impact of gerrymandering on our democracy and the apathy that permeates our citizenry. Teachers know that they have to be on their A-game every day, because our kids are counting on us. While I continue to be overwhelmed by the time commitments of full-time work, parenting and campaigning, I endure it because that’s what we do! Teachers live lives of public service, and I’m prepared to continue that service in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Photo courtesy of Shanna Danielson.
Shanna Danielson has spent most of her life in small Pennsylvania towns. She grew up in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, and now she is a mom, teacher and candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.