The world changed dramatically on September 11 and, in the days since, Americans have become more focused on security, on their families, and on their core values. More than ever, we are now a society in search of community, and we believe that quality education and good public schools are essential to strong communities. Quality public schools not only strengthen families, they are engines of economic growth and social mobility. They are essential vital signs, indicating that our neighborhoods are secure and that they nurture all our citizens. Americans recognize that providing a quality education to all children is vital to our national interests and can be achieved. The public also understands its responsibility to help improve schools, and recognizes the important role schools can play in making life better for themselves and for others in the community. Americans identify public schools as the most critical public resource in the community. At a time when most states face deep budget cuts, voters want their elected representatives to take concerted action to protect education funding even at the cost of deep cuts to other services they deem essential -- services such as healthcare, Social Security, law enforcement, and roads and transportation. As the PEN/Education Week poll shows, education far outdistances every other spending priority when the public is asked to identify programs that should be made recession proof. Indeed, there are strong indications that education will be a major political issue in the 2002 midterm elections and in the 2004 general election as well. This poll underscores the continuing power of education as a core issue in American politics. It shows what voters want from their leaders and how officials can best respond to the public's concerns.
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