Archives for category: Supporting public schools

The Republican-controlled legislature in Missouri has imposed charter schools on the state’s two urban districts (but not their own). The legislature is now considering HB1552, which will financially benefit charter schools. Emily Hubbard, a parent in St. Louis, wrote to ask the Budget Committee to stop expanding and favoring charter schools and to fund the state’s public schools equitably and adequately. She sent this email to the Budget Committee, which I am posting with her permission.

Dear Budget Committee Members, 

I am planning to come speak to you in person, so I will keep this email brief. 

I am a parent of four children in St. Louis Public Schools. They are amazing kids who have been loved and taught well from our neighborhood elementary school to the magnet middle school my two oldest attend. With my youngest in second grade, I have another decade in SLPS, assuming that the district manages to survive.

Y’all, I am so tired of certain members of the state legislature pitting charter schools against public school districts. I am especially baffled that this bill is sponsored by someone with no charter schools in his district. Who is he representing with this bill? Because of the laws y’all or your predecessors have already made, this statewide law will only affect two cities (and maybe Normandy?), and I know you know these are the cities with the most Black kids (mine included). 

My new neighborhood school (we recently moved from Rep. Aldridge’s district to the 81st) is a school that serves students who speak many different languages at home. ESOL services cost money. I don’t know if you have the time to watch this video from the October legislative committee of the Board of Education, but let me remind you that around 20% of SLPS kids do not have stable housing. That’s around 5000 children. This data is 2018-2019 (from this site) , but please look at these numbers: 

all SLPS kids: 21,814

all Charter kids: 10,109

homeless population at SLPS: 4,771

homeless population at charters: 470

SLPS homeless percentage: 21.87% 

charter homeless percentage: 4.65% (but some have zero, some are high as 13%, some have closed 2019)

SLPS serves a student population with disproportionately higher needs than charter schools, whether it’s through our fantastic ESOL programs; the difficult task of walking through trauma with kids (one of my daughter’s classmate’s mother was murdered over Christmas break); the cost incurred by the desegregation program which doesn’t seem to have done that much to integrate our schools (especially the neighborhood ones) and instead allows white and privileged parents the ability to cluster in the particular magnet schools and hoard their resources for the sake of their already resourced children; or the special education costs which we shoulder alone, not shared like in the county. 

And then there’s the whole transportation thing–did you know that some charter schools don’t provide transportation? So you can’t really choose that school if you don’t have a safe way to get your kid to school and home again.

I don’t know anything about the education system in Kansas City, so I can’t speak to that, but please please please consider the effect that passing this bill will have on the children of St. Louis. 

I am an evangelical Christian (a pastor’s wife, even), and I have seen our school be the means that does the Lord’s work: they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the orphan, minister to the foreigners within our gates, not to mention, for our family at least, providing an education that has enabled my children to grow in their faith as we take what they’ve learned at school and use it to glorify God together. 

Please don’t take away from funds that enable SLPS to do the work it does, however imperfectly.

And could we just as a state, fund education at a higher rate all together? I know the rural schools are struggling too. 

Also if we could alleviate homelessness, do what it takes to end gun violence, prioritize the health of all Missourians, raise the minimum wage, deal with our opioid addiction crisis…there are a ton of non-education things that if addressed, would significantly and positively affect not just our district, but all the districts. Just think about it, okay?

Thanks so much for your time–see you on Tuesday! I’m sorry that this wasn’t brief at all, I just care a whole lot.

With appreciation for the difficult work you do,

Emily Hubbard

Carondelet, St. Louis

Teresa Watanabe wrote a wonderful story about kids in a public school in Los Angeles who are college-bound, despite their demographic profiles. They don’t have college-educated parents or SAT tutors. What they do have is a school—the DowntownMagnets High School— where the professionals are dedicated to their success. Read about this school and ask yourself why Bill Gates is not trying to replicate it? Why is it not a model for Michael Bloomberg or Reed Hastings or the Waltons? Why do the billionaires insist, as Bloomberg said recently, that public education is “broken”? Despite their investing hundreds of millions to destroy public schools like the one in this story, they are still performing miracles every day.

They represent the new generation of students reshaping the face of higher education in California: young people with lower family incomes, less parental education and far more racial and ethnic diversity than college applicants of the past. And Downtown Magnets, a small and highly diverse campus of 911 students just north of the Los Angeles Civic Center, is in the vanguard of the change.

Last year, 97% of the school’s seniors were accepted to college, and most enrolled. Among them, 71% of those who applied to a UC campus were admitted, including 19 of the 56 applicants to UC Berkeley — a higher admission rate than at elite Los Angeles private schools such as Harvard-Westlake and Marlborough.

This month, the Downtown Magnets applicants include Nick Saballos, whose Nicaraguan father never finished high school and works for minimum wage as a parking valet but is proud of his son’s passion for astrophysics.

There’s Emily Cruz, who had a rough time focusing on school while being expected to help her Guatemalan immigrant mother with household duties. Emily is determined to become a lawyer or a philosopher.

Kenji Horigome emigrated to Los Angeles from Japan in fourth grade speaking no English, with a single mother who works as a Koreatown restaurant server. Kenji has become a top student and may join the military, in part for the financial aid the GI Bill would provide.

“The main thing my kids lack is a sense of entitlement,” said Lynda McGee, the school’s longtime college counselor. “That’s my biggest enemy: the fact that my students are humble and think they don’t deserve what they actually deserve. It’s more of a mental problem than an academic one.”

What the students do have is a close-knit school community, passionate educators and parents willing to take the extra step to send them to a magnet school located, for many, outside their neighborhoods.

Principal Sarah Usmani leads a staff mindful of creating a campus environment both nurturing and academically rigorous; she has scrounged for money for a psychiatric social worker to help with mental health problems, an attendance counselor to stay on top of absences, an intervention counselor to monitor whether grades drop and an additional academic counselor.

And the students have McGee, who since 2000 has helped shepherd thousands to higher education.

On a recent morning, students lined up to see her in the campus College Center, an inviting space with comfortable sofas, a bank of computers, colorful pennants and stuffed toy mascots from dozens of colleges.

Never mind that it was Thanksgiving break. UC and Cal State application deadlines were just a week away, and McGee’s students needed her.
Ms. McGee, I need a fee waiver! I’m not sure about a major. How do I figure out my weighted GPA?

“I can say no to evening, weekend and holiday work, but that means someone won’t go to college,” McGee said. “There are too many kids, good kids who will take themselves out of the process, and they’ll go to a community college with a 3.9. I can’t carry that guilt.”

McGee keeps close tabs on as many students as she can, often suggesting they consider options other than “the religion of the UC,” as she says many parents, particularly Asian Americans, regard the renowned public research university system.

It’s all about fit, she tells them. If you like personal relationships with faculty, consider smaller private colleges. Think about leaving California to stretch yourself. She gently nudges students with low GPAs away from pinning their hopes on hypercompetitive UCLA and Berkeley and suggests well-regarded but more attainable alternatives: Cal State Dominguez Hills, Woodbury University, Mount St. Mary’s College, Dixie State University.

But she also needs to make sure her top students are aiming high enough.

The day before UC’s Dec. 1 deadline, McGee called Nick into the College Center to check in. The soft-spoken senior and his family live on an annual income of $30,000; at one point, when his father lost his job and the family faced eviction, they had to turn to relatives for help. His parents instilled in him an ethic to never waste — not money, not food, not college opportunities.


At Downtown Magnets, Nick entered the International Baccalaureate program, staying the challenging course when his friends dropped out. He tackled his weakest subject, English, by poring over Harvard professor Matthew Desmond’s exploration of evictions and poverty, to master academic language, text analysis and oral expository skills.

Physics is where Nick soars. His face lights up as he describes his hunger to unravel the mysteries of the universe: why it expands and whether it will stop; how stars become black holes.

Nick has earned a 4.47 GPA, making him the school’s fifth-ranked senior. He didn’t realize that until McGee called him in to tell him.

“You are in the top five, and this is a very competitive senior class,” she said. “If you want to apply to the Ivy Leagues, go for it! Know your worth, and give yourself the opportunities.”

Ivy League schools offer large financial aid packages that can make them cheaper than UC for low-income students, a point McGee amplifies by handing out lists of schools that meet full financial need without loans.
Nick had applied to UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC San Diego, along with Stanford. But McGee’s encouragement expanded his thinking beyond top California colleges to the Ivy League.

“I didn’t think I could apply to the Ivy Leagues,” he said. “I didn’t have that much confidence. Hearing from Ms. McGee that I can, I’m going to try.”

The story goes on to offer many other stories of students who came from homes where money was scarce. At Downtown Magnets High, they learned to believe in themselves, and they had the support and guidance to make good choices.

Don’t write off public schools. They have been the gateway to opportunity for millions of students, and they still are.

Someone please send this story to Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, the Waltons, Reed Hastings, John Arnold, Laurene Powell Jobs, and all the other billionaires who waste their money on charter schools, instead of paying attention to successful public schools like Downtown Magnet.

Dear Friends,

NPE wishes you happy holidays and Merry Christmas! Open the link to learn about our plans for 2022.

Join us in our work of supporting, defending, and improving our nation’s public schools. Join the 350,000 devotees of public schools who are part of NPE. Help us to fight budget cuts and privatization of our most valuable public assets. Help us defeat the billionaires and grifters who want to grab the funding of public schools and devote it to charters and vouchers. Stand with us as we press for reduced class sizes and the misuse of tests and technology.

2021 has brought both good and bad news for our public schools.

Schools were able to open, and although COVID is surging and difficult to manage, our students are in class with the teachers they love. We thank all of our educators for their heroic efforts during such difficult times.

The bad news is that a new war on public schools has begun. Public schools and teachers became a target after the 2008 recession; sadly, it is happening again. Post-2008 brought teacher evaluations by test scores, Common Core testing, and a push for charter schools. This time we face book-banning, anti-CRT laws, and more charter schools and vouchers.

Here is a quote from The New York Times:

Chris Rufo, the right-wing intellectual entrepreneur behind the anti-critical race theory campaign, told me last month that the next phase of his offensive will be a push for school choice, including private school vouchers, charter schools, and home-schooling. “The public schools are waging war against American children and American families,” he said, so families should have “a fundamental right to exit.”

The Network for Public Education will defend our communities’ right to have well-funded, neighborhood schools open to all students and governed by the public. We believe in the ultimate goodness of our communities, even when times are dark. Public education is a pillar of our democracy; privatized “choice” is its wrecking ball. We must fight it in all of its forms.

Won’t you help us keep the lights on and continue the fight? Please give generously.

On behalf of NPE,

Diane Ravitch, President

Carol Burris, Executive Director

Darcie Cimarusti, Communications Director

Marla Kilfoyle, Grassroots Coordinator

Karen Francisco is editorial page editor of The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. Before that, she was a member of the editorial board. After 40 years in journalism, she is retiring.

Francisco has been a stalwart supporter of public schools and an eloquent critic of privatization.

Indiana was once a state known for its devotion to its public schools, which are the heart of their communities.

Karen Francisco upheld that proud tradition when she exposed entrepreneurs, grifters, religious groups eager for public funding, and other looters of public funding.

Although it is a small gesture, I add Karen Francisco to the blog’s Honor Roll.

I met her when I visited Fort Wayne about ten years ago, and we sat down for a long and animated conversation about the invasion of Indiana by privatizers intent on ripping off taxpayers and communities. My dear friends, retired teachers Phyllis Bush and Donna Roof, first brought us together.

In her last editorial, she urged readers not to fall for the extremists running for office, but to vote for “the quiet and thoughtful voices” that want to bring people together.

Indianans will miss her.

All of us who believe that public schools belong to the public will miss her too!

In April, when I was scheduled to have open heart surgery, I asked a number of friends to write something original for the blog to keep it alive in my absence.

Karen Francisco wrote this one, which I scheduled on the day of my surgery, April 8, called “Why I Fight to Save Public Schools.”

Why I fight to save public schools

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor, The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette

There’s an episode of “The Twilight Zone” in which an airplane passenger looks out the window to see a monster dismantling the aircraft engine. His terror escalates when he realizes he’s the only one who can see it happening.

There have been many occasions over the past two decades where I have felt like William Shatner’s character in that classic episode: Why don’t people realize public education is being dismantled in front of their own eyes?  

That’s my motivation for fighting for public schools.  People must understand what’s at risk.

It was as a parent that I had my first glimpse of the destruction underway. On a back-to-school night in September of 2000, I listened as a middle school math teacher complained that he would not be introducing any new material until the state’s standardized tests were administered.  He had been instructed by the administration to spend the first six weeks of the school year reviewing fifth-grade math lessons to bolster performance on the tests.  I instantly knew why my then-sixth-grader was, for the first time ever, complaining he was bored in school.

As an opinion journalist, I have opportunities other parents don’t have to question elected officials. When our editorial board met the next week with the Indiana superintendent of public instruction, I recounted how my children were spending so much time reviewing past lessons, and I asked Dr. Suellen Reed why so much emphasis was being placed on standardized testing.  

She launched into the accountability talking points I could eventually recite by heart. It was my first clue that not everyone saw the damage I sensed was beginning to occur. A costly scheme to label public schools with failing grades would help convince taxpayers and parents that children from low-income households needed vouchers to escape those schools. 

To her credit, Reed would be among the first of Indiana’s elected officials to acknowledge where high-stakes testing was headed, but her resistance cost her the position she held for four terms.  The governor wanted a superintendent supportive of his privatization agenda, so he tapped Tony Bennett, an affable high school basketball coach with a newly earned superintendent’s license. Together, they pushed through massive charter school expansion and a voucher school program. When he signed the bill, Gov. Mitch Daniels literally gave it a kiss.

I am fortunate to work for a publisher who is a strong supporter of public education, so our editorial pages became a persistent voice challenging Indiana’s unbridled rush to privatization, and I was eager to write editorials and bylined columns about what was happening all around us. The governor’s press secretary called my editor to complain after I served on a panel at a public education advocacy event. On a visit to our newsroom, Bennett told me he thought of me as one of those angry parents screaming at the coach from the stands. 

Unfortunately, our editorial voice was about as effective as one of those basketball parents. The vast majority of our readers and area lawmakers were either supportive of the far-ranging privatization effort or silent.  It would have been easy to give in to the complaints from some readers that our editorial board was wrong to oppose school vouchers, if not for the voices of educators and academics.  

“The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” by the esteemed proprietor of this blog, was a revelation. I had the opportunity to interview Diane about the book and later to meet with her when she delivered a lecture at our regional university campus. Her address energized a growing community of ed reform critics. including Phyllis Bush, a retired Fort Wayne teacher who galvanized a group of educators under the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. In West Lafayette, Indiana, Superintendent Rocky Killion teamed with Steve Klink, a staunch public education supporter, to produce  “Rise Above the Mark,” a 2014 documentary that was an early warning cry about the growing obsession with testing and its detrimental effects on education. The Indiana Coalition for Public Education joined the fight. Its board now includes three of the four former Indiana state superintendents, with Bennett being the exception.

I wish I could say Indiana has seen some success in fighting off the privatization monster, but that’s far from the truth. More than $1 billion has now flowed to private and parochial schools through the voucher program, with no accountability.  A scandal involving a virtual charter school cost taxpayers at least $85 million, with seemingly no concern from lawmakers or taxpayers. In the current legislative session, the Republican supermajority is throwing everything at school choice: income limits that make vouchers available to wealthy families, ESAs, full funding for online-only schools and more.

There was a time when newspaper editorial boards could move mountains. As my industry has withered, that is no longer the case. But I’m taking heart this year in a growing number of voices questioning the support of private and parochial schools at the expense of Indiana public schools. It seems like there are now many of us aware of the destruction and determined to stop the monster before it sends public education crashing to the ground. 

If you don’t know the work of Jitu Brown, this is a good time to inform yourself. Jitu Brown has worked for many years as a grassroots organizer in Chicago. He wants families and communities to be able to advocate for themselves, and he trains them to do it. He ardently opposes school closings and privatization, methods of ”reform” that are imposed on communities of color by the powerful. He led the successful hunger strike that blocked the closing of the Walter S. Dyett High School, forcing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rescind the closing and to reopen the refurbished high school. Out of his work in Chicago, Brown led the creation of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has chapters in 36 cities. J4J strongly supports the establishment of community schools that meet the needs of communities and build networks of families and communities.

MEDIA ADVISORY TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7TH 10:00 AM ET


AFT’S RANDI WEINGARTEN, NEA’S BECKY PRINGLE, U.S. SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, CONGRESSMAN BOWMAN (NY-16), JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE’S JITU BROWN TO JOIN EDUCATION EQUITY COALITION AT PRESS CONFERENCE TO ANNOUNCE NEW COALITION


National Leaders Back ‘Equity or Else’ Campaign and
Push for Biden Budget Initiative: $440 Million for Community Schools


(WASHINGTON, D.C) – On Tuesday, December 7, 10 a.m. ET, the American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten; National Education Association president, Becky Pringle; U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD; Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16; Journey for Justice Alliance national director, Jitu Brown; and Schott Foundation for Public Education president, Dr. John Jackson will join national justice and education union leaders to hold a press conference in support of the “Equity or Else” campaign to announce a brand new commission, and amplify its strong support for President Biden’s education budget which will announce a groundbreaking increase of 41 percent for school funding in his proposed FY2022 budget. This Equity Commission will engage municipalities and the federal government to inform government officials at every level on how to create investments and policies that transform quality of life for all Americans, with a focus on equity.


Journey for Justice sits at the helm of the coalition that has been pivotal in shaping President Biden’s agenda on education, especially around community schools. The Equity or Else campaign is a coalition of leaders and organizers from different quality-of-life areas, including education, housing, health care, environment/climate justice, youth investment and food production and delivery, to promote education on how inequity impacts these areas and the grassroots solutions they have organized.

The coalition includes: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School.


WHAT: News Conference with National Education and Justice Leaders on President Biden’s Budget Proposal and Brand New Equity or Else Commission


WHO:
● U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD
● Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16
● Becky Pringle, president, National Education Association
● Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers
● Dr. John Jackson, president, Schott Foundation for Public Education
● Jitu Brown, national director, Journey for Justice Alliance
● Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education, state advocacy director
***

PLEASE EMAIL MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM TO RSVP*** WHEN: 10:00 AM ET, Tuesday, December 7, 2021

WHERE: The National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC (Vax card or Negative COVID Test Required)


Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/J4JAlliance

FURTHER BACKGROUND: The Schott Foundation’s national Opportunity to Learn Network, in partnership with the Journey for Justice Alliance’s Equity or Else project, is launching a nationwide campaign to reverse the trend of privatizing public schools and in its place implement its proven plan for reimagining an education system that has long neglected Black and brown children and starved their schools of resources.

Bolstered by a newly created Grassroots Equity Commission, Equity or Else has come to Washington to back the Biden administration’s budget, which would double the Title I funding that targets low-income schools and, for the first time, allocate $440 million for sustainable community schools. The commission, formed by Schott with J4J, will engage local and federal government in exploring how institutions engage Black, brown and working-class families.


Intent upon getting true equity in education for children of color and reversing the runaway school-privatization trend abetted by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, grassroots members of campaign organizations will also meet with key senators and with current Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.


The time is ripe for reimagining public education. The Biden administration is committed to allocating critically needed new resources for the task. Congress has shown itself willing and able to provide those resources. The conviction of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers has amplified the discussion of what equity actually means. The pandemic has highlighted the stark inequity that afflicts children of color. And those who have been left behind are raising their voices to demand the rooting out of systemic racism in every institution, including: schools, hospitals, healthcare, food production and delivery systems and public safety.


The Schott Foundation’s Loving Cities index assesses how these institutions function in Black, brown and working-class communities. Equity or Else is founded on the proposition that this reimagining of policy must be guided by the voices of those who have been most deeply affected by inequity. We have come together and are finding solutions that meet our needs.

Equity or Else is doing listening projects with people in underserved communities across the country. The Equity Commission will engage officials from municipalities and the federal government to explore how those foundational institutions in those communitIes can be reimagined, with a focus on equity. By using data from all these sources, the commission will be able to inform government officials at every level on how to create equitable investments and policies to transform quality of life for all Americans.


The following national organizations are participating in the overall Equity or Else campaign: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Alliance for Education Justice, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School. For more information go to http://www.standing4equity.org

Founded in 2012, the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) is a national network of intergenerational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 36 U.S. cities. For more information go to www.j4jalliance.com.


FOR MORE INFORMATION: MAYA HIXSON
321.266.2000 MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM
LAURIE GLENN
773.704.7246 LRGLENN@THINKINCSTRATEGY.COM

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Today is #GivingTuesday, a day to support the organizations and causes you believe in. If you care about public schools, if you oppose the efforts to privatize them, please support the Network for Public Education.

Whether it is voucher legislation, charter expansion, wild disruptions of school board meetings, or the slashing of school funding, it is clear that the extreme right-wing is waging war against public schools. NPE is the only national organization dedicated to stopping school privatization, which is the extremists’ ultimate goal. That is our primary mission.

Please give to NPE this Giving Tuesday and join us as we push back against the school privatization agenda. If you give $250 or more, we’ll send you a signed copy of one of NPE President Diane Ravitch’s books.

Donate Now

Privatization is making progress. In Arizona, almost 20% of all students attend charter schools. An additional 99,000 students are receiving vouchers. For the first time, more than half of our states have a voucher program–many with multiple programs. Ohio now has six! All of these programs rob our public schools of precious resources, and when disappointed families return to public schools, their children are often woefully behind.

Won’t you join the fight and give to NPE this Giving Tuesday?

Your gift supports our research and advocacy. Our reports receive national attention and combat the campaign of disinformation and biased reporting from privatization think tanks like Ed Choice, Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

But we can’t do that work without your help. Please make your tax-deductible donation today.

Donate Now

New Book: The Privatization of Everything

Speaking of privatization, consider giving yourself a holiday present by purchasing this important new book written by good friends of NPE.

The Privatization of Everything by Donald Cohen, the founder of In the Public Interest, and bestselling historian Allen Mikaelian chronicles the efforts to turn our public goods into private profit centers from the era of Libertarian Milton Friedman to the present. Privatization has touched every aspect of our lives, from schools, water, and trash collection to the justice system and the military. You can find the book at your local independent bookstore or on Bookshop.org.

We wish you a wonderful and healthy beginning to your holiday season. Thank you for all that you do, and please, help us keep the lights on by giving to NPE.

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/fight-school-privatization-give-to-npe/

As we wade through the muck of a national effort to privatize public schools and replace them with “school choice,” via privately-run charters and vouchers, it’s important to recall why we have public schools. Education is not a consumer item. It is an integral part of a democratic society. Contrary to the propaganda from the right, our public schools do not indoctrinate children. They are tasked with transmitting the knowledge and skills to help young prople become productive citizens and to keep our democracy strong. At their best, they teach young people to question authority and to think for themselves. Thanks to Professor David Berliner for sharing this essay with me.

This article was written by a Canadian educator who was educated in the U.S.

Why public schools are public

Charles Ungerleider, Professor Emeritus, The University of British Columbia

Parents seeking programs that they believe are in the “best interests” of their own children sometimes act as if the education they seek is a private benefit. In seeking an education that is in a child’s or grandchild’s best interest it is easy for parents or grandparents to lose sight of why public schools are public.

If education were primarily a private benefit, it would not be something supported by governments; it would be left to families to determine the why, the what, and the how of educating the young. But in enrolling their children in public school they do not have that discretion.

Governments provide for schooling because it is a public good, something of benefit to everyone. Few people read the legislation establishing public schools but doing so is instructive. The purposes of education are often set out in a public schools or education act that is readily accessible.

The Public Schools Act in Manitoba, for example, proclaims that “a strong public school system is a fundamental element of a democratic society.”[i] Alberta’s act simply says, “Education is the foundation of a democratic and civil society.”[ii] Ontario’s act declares that “a strong public education system is the foundation of a prosperous, caring and civil society.”[iii] Despite differences in the way it is expressed, the contribution of schooling to a democratic, civil society is among public education’s paramount purposes.

Several acts speak specifically about the active connection between public schooling and the health, prosperity, and well-being of society. Manitoba says that “public schools should contribute to the development of a fair, compassionate, healthy and prosperous society.”[iv] Nova Scotia describes that the primary mandate of its publicly funded school system is “to provide education programs and services for students to enable them to develop their potential and acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”[v]

In the context of setting out the purposes of public schooling, the various statements of purpose refer to individual students. However, they make clear that the development of the individual is in service to the [re]creation of society. Some are quite explicit about the link between the student and the student’s social contribution. Alberta, for example, states “the role of education is to develop engaged thinkers who think critically and creatively and ethical citizens who demonstrate respect, teamwork and democratic ideals and who work with an entrepreneurial spirit to face challenges with resiliency, adaptability, risk-taking and bold decision-making.”[vi]

In addition to the general references to democracy and civil society, some statements of purpose are more specific. British Columbia’s School Act says that educational programs are “designed to enable learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”[vii] BC complements its School Act with a ministerial order devoted to the mandate of the school system that provides the rationale for the emphasis on social and economic goals:

Continued progress toward our social and economic goals as a province depends upon well-educated people who have the ability to think clearly and critically, and to adapt to change. Progress toward these goals also depends on educated citizens who accept the tolerant and multi-faceted nature of Canadian society and who are motivated to participate actively in our democratic institutions.[viii]

The BC ministerial order makes clear that individuals have an obligation to contribute to the development of that society, and specifies that the educational program is designed to produce citizens who are:

  • thoughtful, able to learn and to think critically, and who can communicate information from a broad knowledge base;
  • creative, flexible, self-motivated and who have a positive self-image;
  • capable of making independent decisions;
  • skilled and who can contribute to society generally, including the world of work;
  • productive, who gain satisfaction through achievement and who strive for physical well being;
  • cooperative, principled and respectful of others regardless of differences;
  • aware of the rights and prepared to exercise the responsibilities of an individual within the family, the community, Canada, and the world.[ix]

The public schools and education acts and related policies make clear that education is instrumental in developing the knowledge, values, and behaviours that citizens need to maintain a socially cohesive and productive society. The territory of Nunavut is perhaps the most explicit about the importance of the education system in preserving Inuit values and traditional knowledge.

It is the responsibility of the Minister, the district education authorities and the education staff to ensure that Inuit societal values and the principles and concepts of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit are incorporated throughout, and fostered by, the public education system.[x]

The principles and concepts of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit define what it means to be a citizen in Nunavut:

  • Respecting others, relationships and caring for people (Inuuqatigiitsiarniq);
  • Fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive (Tunnganarniq);
  • Serving and providing for family or community, or both (Pijitsirniq);
  • Decision making through discussion and consensus (Aajiiqatigiinniq);
  • Development of skills through practice, effort and action (Pilimmaksarniq or Pijariuqsarniq);
  • Working together for a common cause (Piliriqatigiinniq or Ikajuqtigiinniq);
  • Being innovative and resourceful (Qanuqtuurniq); and
  • Respect and care for the land, animals, and the environment (Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq)

The curricula of the provinces and territories are intended to express what students must know and be able to do to prepare for adult citizenship. Public schooling benefits all of us by making sure that each student is prepared for adult citizenship. Public schooling is not about you or me, but about us.

 



[i] Manitoba, The Public Schools Act C.C.S.M. c. P250,

[ii] Alberta, Education Act, Statutes of Alberta, 2012  c. E-0.3

[iii] Ontario, Education Act, RSO 1990, c. E.2 

[iv] Manitoba, Ibid.

[v] Nova Scotia, Education Act,

[vi] Alberta, Ibid

[vii] British Columbia School Act, RSBC 1996

[viii] British Columbia, Statement of Education Policy Order, OIC 1280/89

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Nunavut, Education Act, S.Nu. 2008

oneducationcanada@gmail.com

A new international organization has released five case studies of low- and middle-income nations, demonstrating that PUBLIC EDUCATION WORKS.

I received this mailing:

We are delighted to launch a new important piece of research on public education, titled Public education works: lessons from five case-studies in low- and middle- income countries”. The study shows that well-organised public education systems are possible and working everywhere, with political will and use of locally relevant practices.

It showcases positive examples of public education in different contexts and settings. The cases – from Bolivia to Namibia, including Vietnam – challenge the disseminated idea that public education needs privatisation for quality and point to a rights-aligned and socially committed definition of quality – including the aim for social inclusion and equity, the engagement of community and local actors, valuing teachers and respecting local culture.  It concludes that public education must be the way forward for building more equal, just and sustainable societies.

The research was produced collaboratively by 12 organizations and is part of GI-ESCR’s continuous efforts to reverse the adverse impact of the commercialisation of education in the context of the unprecedented expansion of private-sector involvement in education.

The launch of this study is a follow-up to the publication of a policy brief released ahead of the Global Partnership for Education summit in July 2021. Its release during the virtual session of the World Bank’s Civil Society Policy Forum adds to the call on the World Bank and other investors to prioritize their support for public education in their efforts to build back more resilient and equitable education systems for all.

The research is available in three formats: a Working paper, Research brief and Policy brief.

To support the publicity of this new, exciting research, please share widely.

#PublicEducationWorks

READ the Working paper or Research brief here

GI-ESCR is a non-governmental organisation that believes transformative change to end endemic problems of social and economic injustice is possible only through a human rights lens.

Denis Smith worked for many years in the Ohio State Department of Education, finishing his career in the Office of Charter Schools. He writes in the Ohio Capital Journal about the existential threat posed to our democracy and our society by the privatization of public schools. His advice: Be careful what you wish for.

In the last few months, Americans have witnessed a series of assaults by the political right on key parts of the bedrock principles of democracy. Those attacks include new restrictions on voting rights in more than half of the states, the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by thousands of insurrectionists, and most recently, clear evidence that the former president pressured the top leadership of the Justice Department to help him overturn the 2020 election results.

Certainly these scary developments are newsworthy and have garnered banner headlines and filled airtime on the evening news. But these high-profile assaults on our democracy have served to obscure another, perhaps even more serious threat, an added variant and supplement to the seditious behavior of insurrectionists and a twice-impeached president who encouraged their assault on democracy.

In the midst of the chaos caused by angry militia types working to keep in power a rogue administration, and being mindful of the distraction these events have caused, it’s past time to get educated about the future viability of public education.

While the U.S. Capitol was placed under assault some months ago, public education has been targeted for forty years, when Ronald Reagan signaled his followers that the public sector was undesirable and that private enterprise was always preferable in the nation. His attitude was immortalized in his remark that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

This observation has been interpreted by the right as a command from Reagan himself to privatize about everything in the public sector — except the military — as part on an ideology which holds that a private enterprise is always preferable to a public function. That thinking has morphed into a crusade to destroy perhaps the most recognized and common artifact in any community: the public school.

Individual liberty v. community responsibility

For those who know this institution’s place in American history, the terms public school and common school are used interchangeably, and the leading proponent who believed that every community should offer a program of education was Horace Mann, considered the father of American public education. In his role as the first commissioner of education in Massachusetts, Mann believed that “education should be free and universal, nonsectarian, democratic in method, and reliant on well-trained professional teachers.”

As Mann’s nineteenth-century idea of the common school spread across the new American Republic, in villages, small towns and cities where a community’s shared and accepted values were honored and embraced, the little red schoolhouse became an icon, the force that helped to mold the very idea of community.

That was the America we recognized until several decades ago.

Today, attacks by insurrectionists attired in their cammies and state legislators dressed in business suits are hard at work to undermine that very sense of community, of place. Instead of embracing the idea of place, the community and its schools which educated generation after generation, those same legislators mumble vaguely about something they call “socialism” or “government schools” and instead espouse something else called “educational choice.”

That word choice, used often in the same sentence with freedom, serves as the anti-government elixir peddled by legislators to further encourage insurrectionists and religious zealots who do not accept the idea of community – and its public or common schools.

And with the frequent use by the right of such terms as choice, freedom, and liberty, that tattered social fabric we should be concerned about is worn down even more.

Indeed, words – particularly those three – have consequences.

Several years ago, the New York Times columnist David Brooks critiqued the work of author Marcia Pally, who observed that Americans project a prominent duality – a need to explore as well as be “situated” – i.e., having a sense of community. But today, our very sense of community is under stress, a weakened social fabric fueled by politicians who in their continuing mischief and purposeful vandalism promote divisive policies that result in the transfer of public funds away from our common schools to support private, religious, and charter schools.

In spite of these destructive policies adopted by state legislatures that are antithetical to societal cohesion, the need for community comes at the very time, in Pally’s analysis, when the forces of global migration, globalization, and the internet are proving to be transformative and thus challenge the very idea of community, of being situated.

But it was Brooks’ added observation that a fourth force, in the form of individual choice, gained my attention then and now, particularly in the current and growing national atmosphere that proclaims it’s all about me and my freedom to choose, regardless of compelling community needs, including health, safety, and the transmission of a common cultural heritage, as Horace Mann, John Dewey, and other visionaries labored to establish in another, more unified time in our history.

The byproduct of this thinking — that it’s all about me — centered as it is on the individual and not the community, is seen in both the Capitol insurrectionists and the anti-vaxxers. These protesters are seemingly also armed with the idea that personal freedom and individual choice trump any responsibility in caring for the well-being of others, whether by wearing a mask or being vaccinated against COVID.

To hell with elections. It’s all about me and what I believe, we are being told by those who protest the warnings of scientists and public health experts. And to hell with masks and vaccinations. We don’t need tyranny, they tell us.

And while we’re at it, to hell with the idea of community. When it’s all about me and what I believe, there is no room for what you value.

It doesn’t take many dots to connect this thinking with the deterioration of the idea of community, of being situated, and of having common values like the public schools that were created to serve all the youth in a particular community. We hold that truth (or should we use the past tense now?) to be self-evident. Not.

But in all of this, of slogans like freedom and choice, be careful what you wish for.

In my reaction to Brooks and his review, I wrote this in April 2016:

“…how we preserve freedom serves to illustrate the certainty of unintended consequences for conservatives, viz., how can you promote the concept of choice, particularly educational choice, as a desired public policy outcome, while also warning about weakened community cohesion and a frayed, tattered, strained social fabric”?

Five years later, I stand by those words. In light of recent events, that strained social fabric is even more fragile, and approaching an irreparable state of repair. It follows that with such disrepair, the idea of community in this country may soon be on a ventilator.

Cookie-cutter legislation

The enemy, it seems, is within. We witnessed this bashing of democracy with the images of militia-types beating police with flagpoles. Another version of that assault is the introduction of cookie-cutter legislation, some of which was crafted by the Koch-funded American Legislative Council, which exists to destroy education by taking the word public out of it, and replacing elected local school boards with charter schools whose boards are hand-picked by for-profit chains rather than being elected by voters in a community.

When state legislators vote to create educational vouchers that subsidize private and religious school tuition with public funds, they are making a decision to support schools that often teach content that has not been subject to a thorough review process, as public schools are. By contrast, vouchers mean that students can now be attending schools, free from state regulation, that may not even teach science or other subjects, or use instructional materials that do not support appropriate knowledge about our world.

The image of a caveman and a dinosaur, coexisting in an earlier time, as displayed in a Kentucky museum, comes to mind. It’s not too hard to imagine that under a voucher scheme, if a church affiliated with the museum operated a school and offered a curriculum in line with such a view, it could be eligible for state educational choice dollars.

Yes. Your tax dollars. And mine.

But where is the proper public purpose for taxpayer support of such an imagined school? Right now, for example, the proposed expansion in some states including Ohio of so-called educational choice vouchers to religious schools could make such situations possible in the future. One wonders what would happen if private and religious schools would first be required to agree to a set of very detailed assurances, including the teaching of specific courses of study consistent with the curricular offerings of local public schools, before receiving any state funding in the form of educational vouchers.

I think we know the answer to that. It’s called having it both ways – getting public money with no accountability and no strings attached.

The purpose of public schools

And then there is the subject of citizenship and our common heritage. Besides its purpose to produce skilled and literate individuals, public schools have also been charged to prepare young people to be caring and ethical citizens. By contrast, it can be argued that with private and religious schools, their own unique missions may not place civic-related ideals in the top rank, but instead subordinate civic education and awareness to a more narrow or sectarian purpose that mirrors the defining purpose of the school.

But if in the name of freedom and educational choice there is already enough concern about the use of public tax dollars to help fund private, religious and charter schools and thus undermine public education, weaken our democracy, and further damage our social fabric, there is yet another problem created by the actions of state legislatures to fund religious schools through vouchers.

It’s the Establishment Clause.

A product of The Enlightenment, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause was crafted by the nation’s founders, who knew that religious wars had consumed Europe in the centuries preceding the American Revolution. Currently, in my home state of Ohio, a coalition of school districts is preparing a court challenge to check the legislature’s intent to expand the state’s voucher program as not only a violation of the constitutional prohibitions against supporting sectarian schools but also a violation of the Ohio Constitution’s purpose to establish a “system of common schools.”

I trust that this language from the Ohio Constitution is illustrative of how other states establish a system of public education.

[Article VI, Sec. 2 Education] The General Assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the State; but, no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this State.

Certainly, private and religious schools do not meet the definition of a common school that must be supported by public funds, yet in the name of educational choice there is a nationwide movement to expand voucher programs that will support private and religious schools, in spite of any Establishment Clause violation and other legal prohibitions.

So we return to the purpose of the common school as a unifying force to build community and not be a dividing force, as private and religious schools will be, if they are put on an equal footing with public education through support with public funds.

If all of these issues might seem to be troublesome, there is one which will likely prove to cause the most damage: How can you maintain the concept of E Pluribus Unum when public policy seems poised to support all types of schools and thus erode the idea of the common school, in this case the Unum in our national motto, as the essential driver to ensure that children who come from many backgrounds form a single nation through our common schools?

Indeed, we know that the mission of public education is to prepare young people to be skilled, literate, and ethical citizens. But that’s only part of it.

Let’s take a look at the Unum part of the equation. In an essay about the role of public education written two decade ago, Kenneth Conklin, a Hawai’i philosophy professor, raised some concerns about how a fragmented educational system can itself cause a fragmented society.

“If an educational system is altered, its transmission of culture will be distorted,” Conklin wrote. “The easiest way to break apart a society long-term without using violence is to establish separate educational systems for the groups to be broken apart.”

Public tax dollar support of private, religious, and charter schools clearly represent the establishment of separate educational systems. Such tax support violates the very idea of Horace Mann’s common school, the very image of democracy in every community.

Conklin provides some additional advice for us to consider:

“A society’s culture can survive far longer than the lifespan of any of its members, because its educational system passes down the folkways and knowledge of one generation to subsequent generations. A culture changes over time, but has a recognizable continuity of basic values and behavioral patterns that distinguishes it from other cultures. That continuity is provided by the educational system.” (Emphasis mine)

What’s next?

We’re in trouble. A community thrives on consensus, of shared values. The actions of agents of disinformation spreading lies about vaccines have undermined confidence in science and public health. And if we lose a consensus about public education and the shared values it represents, we have lost our democracy.

But there is hope.

In reaction to this assault on public education in Ohio, a group of 85 school districts have joined to challenge the intent of the Ohio General Assembly to greatly expand the Educational Voucher program and put private and religious schools on an equal footing to receive tax dollars siphoned away from constitutionally established common schools. Their position is that Article VI of the Ohio Constitution makes no provision for publicly supported but parallel and competing forms of education supported by public funds.

The Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, which was itself established twenty-five years ago to ensure fair state funding for school districts irrespective of wealth, is facilitating the legal efforts of districts in challenging the constitutionality of educational vouchers and the blatant violation of the Establishment Clause in establishing funding for religious schools. With so much at stake for future state funding of public school districts, more districts are expected to join this lawsuit in the coming weeks

So what is the lesson to be learned from public support of private and religious schools, along with the privatization of what is left of public education?

Be careful what you wish for.

If you think freedom and choice are the purest ideals to possess and not a sense of community to hold us together, most prominently seen in our public schools, think again. Every vote in every state legislature to offer or expand choice in the end represents a choice for disunion, for a fragmentation of our cultural heritage, a basis for community – and our very nationhood.

We are on the brink. If there is not a counter-movement to roll back this destruction of our communities by the Ohio General Assembly through the planned destruction of the common school, we will get what we deserve.

Yes, be careful what you wish for.

Accurate link: https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2021/09/16/public-schools-vouchers-privatization-and-educational-choice-be-careful-what-you-wish-for/

Dountonia Batts is a parent advocate and community organizer in Indianapolis. she is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. She explains here why she once supported vouchers but no longer does.

I can remember exactly when my thinking about school vouchers began to change. I was attending a community meeting, waiting to find out whether my small children, then in kindergarten and first grade, were going to receive vouchers to attend a private school. The meeting was almost over when a community member stood up and told us how disturbed she was by the way we all kept talking about ‘my children.’ “We have to be focused on the children who do not have the choices you have,” she told us solemnly. “They’re going to fall through the cracks.” It would take me years to see for myself what she meant, but the seed was planted that night.

My two sons did get school vouchers and were accepted to a private Baptist K-12 school. As the years passed, I became more aware of the impact of the decision I’d made. It started with my own children. After the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, my oldest son wore a hoodie to school and it was viewed as a political statement. The signs that he wasn’t really welcome at a school that got less diverse in each successive grade became more apparent. I saw the eyes and heard the comments in the bleachers. My youngest son was the only Black child in his class. He started to get discouraged, convinced that he wasn’t smart. He never found his people at that school. I began to understand that school is about more than academics. The social element really matters too.

My perspective really began to change when my husband, Dr. Ramon Batts, decided to run for school board in Indianapolis. He could see what I’d been missing—that as charter schools and vouchers expanded, the school system in Indianapolis was falling apart. All of the high schools in our neighborhood had been shut down, even as charter high schools were popping up. Here was the neediest school system in the state, serving the neediest kids, and yet funds were being systematically drained away. And it was only getting worse. In the years that my children had been attending their private school, Indiana had expanded eligibility for the voucher program again and again. Today, families earning up to $140,000 can attend private schools at public expense. 

For the first time I really began to think about the impact of the decision I’d made on everybody else. By pulling away from the public system, I was leaving less for the kids who’d been left behind, including the ones who couldn’t get into private schools, or who got kicked out because they didn’t conform to what the schools wanted. The more I saw, the more it bothered me. I was using public dollars to perpetuate discrimination in the name of school choice. I decided that I could no longer accept school vouchers for my children because it was unethical. 

Today, both of my children attend public schools, and my younger son has finally found “his people.” And I’m now an advocate for public education. I try to get parents to understand that if we defund, undermine or privatize public schools we’re doing a disservice to the majority of parents for whom private schools are not an option. I try to help them see what I finally did: that the decisions we make when it comes to our own children have an impact on everybody else. All those years ago, that woman at the community meeting warned that we were drifting dangerously away from the idea of a common good. At the time, I couldn’t understand what she meant. I do now.