Bertis Downs is a public school parent in Athens, Georgia. He is also an activist for public education and a member of the board of Network for Oublic Education. He wrote this column about why he and his wife chose their local public schools, published by Valerie Strauss on the Answer Sheet blog.


Downs wonders why elected officials don’t acknowledge the obvious fact that most people choose the local community public schools, not private schools, not charter schools, not religious schools.


He writes:


“There are excellent schools in every neighborhood in America? After all, the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren attend public schools.


“Why aren’t “community schools” — which seek to address the many out-of-school factors that effect achievement — a leading reform choice? Could it be that those are public school models that don’t profit anyone other than the communities of students they educate?


“Among the many great things about our country’s public schools is their resilience. Most of our public schools do a good job of educating our nation’s children — despite relentless political and media attacks that blame teachers and schools for poor student performance while ignoring out-of-school factors that affect how children do in school.


“My own kids have had caring and committed public school teachers, wonderful extracurricular opportunities, great friends, and bright futures as members of their diverse and challenging school communities (in Georgia in our case). Every student should have that choice. What kids everywhere need is love and support at home and at school, wisdom and inspiration from well-trained teachers, and a rich and diverse curriculum that focuses on them as unique children.


“In the era of high-stakes standardized tests — with scores unfairly used to make important decisions about the future of kids, teachers, principals, schools and even districts — many kids have effectively become “testing drones.” Students deserve a curriculum rich in the arts and cultural context. They deserve to attend schools centered in and supported by their community, with enough funding for adequate facilities, reasonable class sizes, and knowledgeable and fulfilled teachers.


“These things occur in countries that believe in systemic improvement — and they are possible here too, but only if we have the courage and political will to properly fund school districts, create exciting and smart curriculum and address out-of-school factors that affect student academic performance.”