Citizens Voice: Letter to the Editor: We Need to Better Prepare Our Children
November 5, 2017

Where there is a need, there are U.S. military personnel. They assist our allies in ousting terrorists from their strongholds. They transport food and water to flood and hurricane victims.

They have been in the news constantly this fall. We are gratified to see them, and whether we know it or not, they are operating with help from highly sophisticated technology that protects their bodies and enhances their powers of detection.

Still, no matter the mission, technology can never take the place of highly qualified people. Dedicated soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are the backbone of the military, and on Veterans Day and every day, they deserve our gratitude and thanks.

It’s disturbing to consider, but most Americans do not qualify for military service. According to the Department of Defense, 72 percent of Pennsylvania youth ages 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service. Three young adults out of four aren’t qualified to serve our country due to problems with obesity, education, drug abuse, or crime.

The Citizen-Readiness Index, produced by the Council for a Strong America, found that 13 percent of Pennsylvania youth ages 16 to 24 are unemployed and not in school. Plus, 13 youth out of 100 ages 17 to 24 have arrest records.

Pennsylvania businesspeople are also alarmed. Many employers offer good, family-sustaining jobs, but they can’t find the people with the specialized training and academic skills to fill those positions.

These findings should worry us all. In this era of conflict and rapid change, our nation must operate smoothly and yet be capable of responding to any and all threats. It’s an imperative for our national security and our economic vitality. When too many citizens are unskilled, our danger from security threats and a faltering economy is magnified.

Instilling needed skills and capabilities in every citizen goes back to childhood. Education systems partner with families to ensure our next generation is one of good students and lifelong learners. Unfortunately, many areas in Pennsylvania lack adequate resources for quality pre-K and K-12 education.

Roughly 64 percent of eligible preschool-age children are unable to access high-quality, publicly funded pre-K due to limited state funding. Additionally, Pennsylvania is home to the widest per-pupil K-12 spending gap in the nation between wealthy and poor school districts. The result: larger class sizes, cuts in academic offerings, and outdated equipment.

These limited pre-K opportunities and inadequately resourced schools, put together, demonstrate that we are not committing to the classroom success of every child in Pennsylvania.

Our children deserve the best we can provide. With a strong basis in learning, character development, and teamwork, they will be ready to take their places in our communities and our businesses.

Pennsylvania must adequately invest in pre-K and in all of our public schools, preparing our next generation for the day they are contributing to our economy and, if they choose, serving with pride in the U.S. military.

Major Gen. (Ret.) Joseph F. Perugino, U.S. Army, Former Commander, 28th Infantry Division, PA National Guard


Read the letter to the editor here.