Archives for category: Supporting public schools

In the annual fight in Texas over school vouchers, one of the strongest, most consistent defenders of public schools is an influential group known as zpastors for Texas Children. They believe in the importance of public education as a democratic right and they strongly support the separation of church and state.

At recent legislative hearings in Austin, their executive director Charles Foster Johnson testified against a voucher bill that was passed in the State Senate. This battle occurs every year. Thus far, a coalition of rural Republicans and urban Democrats has managed to defeat vouchers in the House. Pastor Johnson and his colleagues have been a powerful group in staving off privatization.

[If you want to watch Pastor Johnson’s testimony, which was “from the heart,” and diverged from his written statement, watch here:

[Start the video at the 3:50 mark– that’s 3 HOURS and 50 MINUTES– move the cursor just shy of the left side of the middle. ]

Testimony Before House Public Education Committee

By Charles Foster Johnson of Pastors for Texas Children

October 17, 2016

Chairman Aycock, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you and your committee today about what we have witnessed in our fine neighborhood and community public schools throughout our great State. My name is Charles Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship, Fort Worth. I am also executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, a statewide organization mobilizing the faith community for public education support and advocacy. We do two things: we minister to children in our local schools and we advocate for just policy for our children with our legislators. We were birthed out of the Baptist General Convention of Texas three years ago and now have over 1900 faith leaders of all denominations in churches all across Texas.

We are in our schools every day and see children from every ethnicity, every socio-economic background, and all walks of life succeeding beautifully on their path to productive citizenship in our society. We see children discovering their God-given talent and giftedness at the hands of dedicated teachers answering the call of God to pursue careers as educators. We witness daily the sheer moral power of public education as a building block of our society. This is why we are compelled to deliver the message to whoever will listen that universal public education is God’s will for all people—not a “choice” accorded to a few through a school choice voucher. I’d like to share several reasons why:

Public education is a moral duty. Education is a gift of God for all people. Just like the first human did in the Bible story so long ago, every person gets to name God’s world. Just as God brought all the creatures to the human to see what he would name them, so classroom teachers in schools all across our land teach our children to name God’s world. It’s the only way we can fulfill the first commandment of God to “be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it.” Education is a core component of the public interest. It is God’s common good for all God’s children—not just for those who are smart and stable and economically secure enough to pay for it with a school choice voucher.

Public education is a democratic duty. The founders of this nation determined at the outset of our Republic that in order to have a democratic society, we must educate all our children—not just a few children from families affluent enough to pay for it. Public education is a cornerstone of our American way of life. It is what has made America great. Our neighborhood and community schools are the places where our American history is taught, where our children learn basic civics, where the Pledge of Allegiance is said every day, where citizens are made. In America, citizenship is for all people—not just those few fortunate enough to be chosen by a school choice voucher.

Public education is a societal duty. It is incorrect for some of our friends to say that the money should follow the child because it is “my money.” With all due respect, it is not “my money” in a just society. We have a responsibility to participate in the well-being of all people. Do I get to have my own private security guard subsidized by the public through a “safety choice voucher?” Do I get to have my private swimming pool underwritten by the people of Texas because I don’t use the public pool? In a just and equal society, do I get a “transportation voucher” because I walk or ride a bicycle? The love of neighbor has founded our social order in these United States. We practice that love of neighbor through our taxation to support investments in that societal infrastructure.

Public education is a constitutional duty. The Constitution of the State of Texas says this in Article 7, Section 1: “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” The members of this legislative body swore a Bible oath to uphold that provision. There is zero authorization for this body to do anything with private schools.

Public education is a spiritual duty. We believe wholeheartedly in religious liberty as a gift of God from all people. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison did not make it up. It is the principle upon which our nation is founded. So, we affirm that no overt religious instruction or activity should be advanced or established with tax dollars in our public schools. All faith is voluntary. It belongs in the home and the church—not in our public institutions. This government has no authority to advance religion in our public schools. Nor, on the other hand, does this government have any authority to meddle in our private and home schools through a school choice voucher. Any money that is diverted from the public trust to a private entity will be publically accounted for, thus inserting and intruding government into the voluntary associations of religious schools. God does not need Caesar’s money to do the Lord’s work. Never has. Never will.

But, faithful teachers take the love of God with them into our classrooms each and every day, ministering long hours at low pay while serving the poorest children in our midst. They instill moral character. They teach respect across the wide diversity of our population. They show unconditional love to all kids. They do this because they are called before God. This is why the dynamics that govern our capitalistic system do not operate in an educational environment. Market forces such as competition and cost benefit analysis simply do not apply in the formation of a human being. A classroom is a holy place of learning—not a marketplace of financial gain. To make commodities of our kids and markets of our classrooms is to misunderstand—and profane—the spirituality of education.

PO Box 471155 – Fort Worth, Texas 76147

Lloyd Lofthouse, veteran of the military and veteran teacher, wrote this explanation of the ingredients of school success. He writes that school choice undermines success because it destroys community support for the community’s children.

He wrote in a comment:

The neos (liberal and conservative) are always looking for language loopholes to subvert the constitutions of the states and nations.

How can schools compete unless the students compete because using student test scores to rank schools forcing schools to compete can’t work unless every single student competes by actually paying attention to teachers, what teachers teach, cooperating, no behavior problems, no disruption, and every child reads every day for fun and learning in addition to doing all the work?

Find me a teacher in almost all the public schools who’s taught for at least 10 years and claims that every one of their students has is is always on track and working/learning, and I will show you a liar. If you can’t cherry pick the students and cherry pick the facts, then you can’t be successful with 100 percent of the students.

Choice means the end of a free public education for every child even if the child is a challenge to engage in the process for learning.

The formula for a child’s education takes a village. Schools can’t do it alone. Teacher’s can’t do it alone. Children can’t do it alone. Parents can’t do it alone. They all have to come together and work together for learning to happen.

Choice will never replace the village. That why the community based, locally controlled, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools are the only way to allow the opportunity for every child to be offered an education to work.

Children also have a choice when they walk into a school. They have a choice to learn or not to learn and some of them choose not learning when they do not do the work and do not read for whatever reason and there are a lot o reasons why those children do not join the village to learn what teachers teach.

Even Donald Trump was a challenging child to teach. I’ve read that Trump was kicked out of his expensive private school because he was a challenge to teach so his father sent him to a military boarding school, a boot camp school similar to Eva’s Success Academy.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund enthusiastically endorses Governor Steve Bullock for re-election.

Governor Bullock is a parent of children in public schools, and he understands the importance of public education in a democracy.

“Paul Horton, a history teacher and public school activist [in Chicago], had this to say about Governor Bullock. “I was visiting a friend in Bozeman, Montana this summer and was invited to a talk given by Steve Bullock, the current governor of Montana who is running against a Koch funded candidate who supports education privatization. What I heard was heartening for someone from a city where privatization is dictated by an unelected school board. Gov. Bullock pledged that he would fight for public education at all levels and continue to work to increase investment in public schools and programs. Steve Bullock is a candidate teachers, parents, and students can trust. He believes in public education and continued 100% investment in public schools.

“Steve explained to us why his support for public education is so strong. “As the father of three children who attend public school, I know firsthand that what goes on in our schools is very important to families around the state. As Governor, I also know that having a great system of public education is the foundation for building and nurturing a thriving economy. Throughout my career, both as a private attorney and in public service, I have fought to ensure that we have great public schools in Montana. As Governor, I have made record investments in public education, vetoed measures that would have otherwise diverted funds away from or weakened our public schools, and used my position to elevate and support the innovative work happening in classrooms all across Montana.”

“Steve describes his resistance to privatization as follows, “Montana does not authorize public money to go to any private charter schools. I have and will continue to oppose any efforts to do so. Montana rule does allow public school districts, under the authority of the local school board, to apply for “public charter” status. This provision gives public schools additional flexibility to innovate and implement new strategies to improve student outcomes, but maintains accountability and transparency with the locally-elected school board and the Board of Public Education. Public resources should be used to support our outstanding public schools, which are open to all students, with any kind of need. I respect and will protect the rights of parents to choose to educate their children in non-public schools. I will not, however, support legislation that subsidizes that choice with public resources.”

“Steve will face his opponent, businessman, Greg Gianforte, who supports choice and vouchers on November 8.”

Keep Montana public schools strong. Don’t let billionaire bucks undermine democracy!

Vote to re-elect Steve Bullock!

The Network for Public Education Action Fund was divided during the presidential primaries and made no endorsement. It is divided no more. In a contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, our choice is clear. We support Hillary Clinton.

NPE Action Endorses Hillary Rodham Clinton for President

The Network for Public Education Action (NPE Action) endorses Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States. NPE Action is not aligned with Ms. Clinton on all educational issues, however, all members of the NPE Action Board strongly agree that the election of Donald Trump would have disastrous consequences for public education.

“Although we did not endorse a candidate during the primary season, we are united in our belief that Ms. Clinton is a far better choice for President than Mr. Trump,” stated NPE Action Executive Director, Carol Burris. “By his choice of education advisors, as well as his continued reference to public schools as “government schools,” there is no doubt that Trump would attempt to privatize our nation’s public education system. Ms. Clinton, in contrast, speaks of the importance of a strong and vibrant public school system. While we may disagree with some of her positions on how to improve public schools, unlike Mr. Trump, the destruction of public education is not her objective.”

NPE Action President and co-founder, education historian, Diane Ravitch, agrees. “I enthusiastically support Hillary Clinton because she is the most experienced and most knowledgeable candidate; the alternative is unthinkable. Donald Trump would destroy public education, one of the essential institutions of our democracy. With Hillary as President, we can hope for the best; with Trump, we can expect the worst.“

Prior to the conventions, NPE Action submitted a position paper to both the Republican and Democratic platform committees. The Board of NPE Action was heartened to see many of those ideas incorporated into the final draft of the Democratic platform. If Ms. Clinton is elected, NPE Action will lobby for an end to high-stakes testing, a moratorium on new charters, and for regulations to end charter abuses and ensure transparency. We will also demand a commitment to community schools that are democratically governed so that parents—especially parents of color—have voice in how their children are educated.

Co-founder and treasurer of the organization, Anthony Cody, summed up NPE Action’s endorsement of Clinton this way. “Supporters of public education have a clear choice in November, between a candidate sworn to destroy it, and one whom we may pressure to do right by our schools. I hope others will join us in supporting Hillary Clinton. Just as important, we need to continue to build the grassroots movement for democratically controlled, equitable and excellent schools for all our children.”

“Inside Philanthropy” has done investigative reporting and discovered one funder that supports the traditional public schools that enroll 95% of American school children (not counting, I assume, the 10% or so in private and religious schools).

Who might this funder be? Not the behemoth Gates Foundation. Not the billionaires Broad, Walton, Fisher, Dell, Adelson, Bloomberg, or Arnold. Not Ford, Carnegie, or Rockefeller.

You can’t guess. Neither could I. It’s a funder in the Bay Area working with real public schools in San Francisco, giving millions (pocket change compared to billionaires like Gates, Broad, and Walton) and committing their employees to help in the schools.

They are putting their money where the kids are, not into destructive schemes to disrupt and destroy our democratic institution of public schools.

Open the link to learn who has exercised common sense, good judgment, and performs good deeds. I name this level-headed, wise company to the honor roll of this blog.

If you know of any other foundations or corporations that are helping public schools, instead of trying to control them or privatize them, please let me know.

NY Kids PAC is an organization of parents that endorses candidates who support public schools and their students. Its members have endorsed four candidates in Tuesday’s election.

Read here:

NYC Kids PAC endorses Gustavo Rivera, Robert Jackson, Debbie Medina and Robert Carroll for the State Legislature in Tuesday’s Primaries

We hope you and your family had a great summer and you’re ready for a new school year. There’s an important primary for State Legislature tomorrow Tuesday, Sept. 13, and we wanted to make sure that you knew about it. It is critical to have allies in the NY Senate and Assembly who will fight with us to protect our children and their public schools.

NYC Kids PAC, composed of parent leaders and public school advocates from throughout the city, are endorsing four outstanding candidates running for state office on Tuesday. Based on their exceptional records and their responses to our candidate survey, our board urges you to be sure to vote for Gustavo Rivera in the Bronx, Robert Jackson in Manhattan, and Debbie Medina in Brooklyn, all running for the State Senate, as well as Robert Carroll, who is running to replace retiring Jim Brennan from Brooklyn in the State Assembly.

We endorse Gustavo Rivera, who represents District 33, which includes parts of Kingsbridge Heights, East Tremont, Crotona Park, Fordham, Belmont, Van Nest, Claremont, High Bridge and Morris Park in the Bronx. Senator Rivera has an exceptional record of standing up for our children and resisting the hedge-fund backed charter school onslaught which is diverting hundreds of millions of dollars and taking precious space from our public schools. His responses to our survey were also exceptionally thoughtful on school funding, equity, and campaign finance reform. In contrast, his opponent, Fernando Cabrera, failed to respond to our survey and supports tuition tax credits for private schools, which would create huge tax breaks for billionaires and further imperil our already underfunded public schools.

We strongly endorse Robert Jackson who is running for State Senate in District 31, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights in Manhattan. Jackson is a hero to many parents, not just in his district but throughout the city, for his stellar record on public education. He led the CFE lawsuit as President of the school board in Washington Heights and Inwood, resulting in the Court of Appeals decision that the state had illegally underfunded NYC public schools. He went on to chair the City Council Education Committee, and has been fighting with parents every step of the way for our kids to obtain their constitutional right to a sound basic education. His responses to our survey also showed a profound understanding of problems related to privatization, the Common Core standards, high-stakes testing and school overcrowding.

While his opponent, Marisol Alcantara, had many good responses to our survey, she favors the continued expansion of charter schools, and has been supported by the IDC, the caucus that deprived the Democrats of control of the State Senate by voting with the Republicans. Meanwhile, Micah Lasher, who is also running for this seat, refused to complete our survey and has a long history of supporting charter school expansion and high stakes testing, first as the chief lobbyist for the NYC Department of Education under Bloomberg and Klein, and then as the founding director of StudentsFirstNY. StudentsFirstNY is relentlessly pro-charter and pro-corporate reform, though Lasher has scrubbed his affiliation with the organization from his campaign biography and his Linked-In profile. That’s why we enthusiastically support Robert Jackson as the best candidate by far for anyone who cares about protecting and strengthening our public schools.

We endorse Debbie Medina has a long history of decades of grassroots community activism for social justice in District 18, which covers parts of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick. In recent years, Medina has stood up for neighborhood public schools and joined the community in a fight against Success Academy’s co-location in MS 50. As the responses to our survey make clear, Medina is a strong advocate of public education and supports smaller classes, reducing the role of high stakes testing in public education, and stopping the expansion of charter schools. Medina is also committed to keeping big money out of politics to ensure that our neighborhood public schools are sufficiently and equitably funded. Meanwhile, incumbent Martin Dilan failed to complete our survey and has done little for the schools in the district.

Finally, we endorse Robert Carroll, who is running in District 44 for Assembly, which covers parts of Park Slope, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn. Though all three candidates for this Assembly seat had good answers to our survey, Robert Carroll’s was the best, scoring 100% on governance, privatization and charters, parent empowerment, testing, standards, resources and more. Carroll has a progressive record as an activist on Community Board 7 and we’re confident that he will do a great job in the Assembly, advocating for our public schools.

In addition to endorsing these candidates, NYC Kids PAC members are also volunteering for their campaigns and urge other parents to do the same. Links to the candidates’ surveys and Kids PAC endorsements are here:

Please share this message with your friends, neighbors, colleagues and fellow parents at your children’s schools!

Here’s hoping for a great school year, and thanks!

Shino Tanikawa, Isaac Carmignani, Leonie Haimson, Fatima Geidi, Eduardo Hernandez, Andy Lachman, Brooke Parker, Naila Rosario, Karen Sprowal and Tesa Wilson

Robert Jackson is a great champion for public schools. He is running for State Senate in District 13 in New York City. In this post, parent activist Tory Frye explains why you should help him, work for him, and vote for him. Tory Frye is long-time public school parent activist in Upper Manhattan who served as an elected parent member of Community Education Council in District 6 and two School Leadership Teams. Robert Jackson is running for the Democratic nomination this tomorrow, September 13, in NY Senate District 31, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights. The New York Daily News reported just today that one of his opponents in the Democratic primary has received more than $100,000 from hedge fund managers who are Republicans and who support more charters. Isn’t it amazing that som many wealthy people, who don’t send their children to public schools, are so deeply committed to privatizing the public schools?

Tory Frye writes:

For weeks I have been getting glossy brochures from Micah Lasher who us running for NY State Senate. These tout his devotion to public education, in particular his aversion to high stakes standardized testing and his desire to direct money owed by New York State to NYC public school students.

Here’s the thing; actually it’s two things.

First, the whole reason the state owes NYC public school students money is because his opponent in this senate race, ROBERT JACKSON, led the lawsuit in the 1990s (!!!) that established that the state was denying our kids the money they needed to get a decent public education. The settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity established that the state owed our children billions; in fact, New York state STILL owes city students 2.2 (maybe 3) BILLION dollars! And it is all because Robert Jackson sued the State back then.

Second, Micah Lasher built his career promoting policies that totally UNDERMINE public education in NYC! He was the chief lobbyist for Joel Klein at the NYC Department of Education and then for Mayor Bloomberg when their approach to improving education included: 1) closing schools (labeling them and their students “failures”); 2) using standardized tests to hold children back and evaluate/fire teachers (despite ZERO evidence of efficacy); 3) cutting school budgets and threatening teacher lay-offs; 4) co-locating charter schools with public schools (using a flawed formula for space allocation that had students getting services in closets and hallways) and 5) pushing for a version of mayoral control over our schools that vested all power in one man, Mayor Bloomberg, and none for parents or community members

Lasher then went on to lead StudentsFirstNY, the state affiliate of a national organization (started by none other than Michelle Rhee) that sought to increase the numbers of charter schools, demand space in already crowded public schools, evaluate teachers, students and schools primarily by means of standardized test scores and all sort of corporate education “reforms” that act only to undermine actual public schools and open the “industry” to privatization.

And Lasher has left ALL of this off his campaign literature. Indeed, he has scrubbed any mention of his year running StudentsFirstNY as its first executive director from his biography in LinkedIn.

And what was Robert Jackson doing during these five years? What was he speaking out for ALL that time? Well, I went through my District 6 public school records and my Facebook feed and can attest to the fact that Robert Jackson stood by and actively advocated on behalf of Washington Heights and Inwood public schools – but more importantly for all NYC public school students and families; for example:

• June 2011: fighting against Mayor Bloomberg’s threatened school-based budget cuts and teacher lay-offs.

• June 2012: addressing and trying to limit the damage done by high-stakes standardized testing

• October 2012: fighting Bloomberg’s plan to close PS 132, the Juan Pablo Duarte school in District 6.

• May 2013: advocating for protections of student data, including private health and disability information, that would have been sold and monetized via inBloom.

• June 2013: questioning why the Bloomberg administration was pushing to remove school attendance zones in District 6, a nearly 100 block district, making it likely that many parents would no longer have a neighborhood public school within walking distance that their children had a right to attend;

• May 2014: demanding that the Mother Cabrini Educational Complex be rented to house Mott Hall, the ONLY middle school for gifted students in District 6 currently occupying a dilapidated and antiquated building.

• June 2014: demanding that the DOE remove trailers from PS 48 in District 6.

• October 2014: educating parents about their children’s constitutional rights to a sound, basic education including equitable funding and smaller classes.

In short, Robert Jackson has been a strong and consistent advocate for fighting with parents so that our public schools will be preserved and strengthened, while Lasher has advocated for closing them and turning them into corporate-led charters.

There is another candidate in the race, Marisol Alcantara, who also supports the expansion of charter schools and whose campaign has been funded almost exclusively from the IDC, the renegade breakaway group of Democratic Senators who consistently vote with the Republicans, allowing them to keep control of the State Senate. The Republicans running the State Senate (whose campaigns are ironically now being funded by the hedge-fund billionaires behind StudentsFirstNY) have consistently voted against fairly funding NYC public schools and voted for encouraging unlimited charter school expansion, which are already draining more than a billion dollars from the DOE budget and taking previous space from our overcrowded public schools.

The choice is clear: if you care about our public schools and our children’s right to a quality education, you must support Robert Jackson in Tuesday’s primaries.

–Tory Frye is long-time public school parent activist in in Upper Manhattan who served as an elected parent member of Community Education Council Six and two School Leadership Teams in District Six. Robert Jackson is running for the Democratic nomination this Tuesday, September 13 in NY Senate District 31, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights.

Marc Tucker, CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, wonders whether the Republicans have completely abandoned public education.

Trump’s education plan, announced earlier this week, shows that the answer is a loud “YES.” He wants to redirect $20 billion in federal education spending to states as a block grant for charters and vouchers.

Tucker remembers when public schools were not a partisan issue. They had strong support by both parties both locally and nationally.

Republican civic leaders proudly served on local and state school boards.

But now the rhetoric of the fringe right has come to typify Republican rhetoric.

Marc thinks this might be a temporary aberration.

I hope he is right. I think the Republican party has become the party of privatization.

What bothers me is that there are Democrats like Andrew Cuomo of New York and Dannell Malloy of Connecticut who echo the pro-privatization views of the Republicans. Worse, no President has done more to advance privatization than President Obama.

The only way this situation will change is if voters let their representatives know that they want better public schools, not privatization. About 6% of children are in charter schools. A minuscule number receive vouchers. About 9-10% attend independent and religious schools. At least 85% of all children are enrolled in public schools. Their parents should raise a ruckus and force the politicians to stop defunding their schools and stop diverting public money to privatization.

Yesterday the blog passed the 28 million mark. That is the number of page views, the number of times that someone opened a post.

Something important is happening. It is happening step by step, but it is happening. The tide is turning.

The key to saving our schools is collaboration among allies. The Network for Public Education has developed an awesome national website called the Grassroots Education Network. Open it, and you will see your state. Click on it and you will see the name of organizations working together to support better public schools, schools open to everyone, no lottery. If you don’t see the name of your organization, contact Carol Burris, the executive director of NPE and give her the information.

The public is waking up to the fraud perpetrated by the privatizers, the corporate reformers, the privateers, whatever you call them. They dare not say what they really want.

They have no interest whatever in “reforming the public schools.” They want to disrupt them, blow them up, shut them down, and replace them with private management.

The public is wising up.

Sometimes it takes a comedian to tell the truth, as John Oliver did recently.

Day after day, the national media tell stories of charter scams, online charter scams, real estate frauds, self-enrichment schemes, charters run by religious organizations, charters run by foreign nationals, charters destroying local communities, charters cherrypicking the kids they want. How do they never see the pattern in the rug?

After 15 years of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now ESSA, what reform victories are there? The Tennessee Achievement School District has failed to make a difference despite its bold promises. The Michigan Educational Achievement Authority has failed, utterly failed. Firing teachers and staff and closing schools is not reform: It’s disruption.

After 15 years of Reform-That-Dare-Not-Speak-Its-True-Name (Privatization), the pushback is happening, and it is real.

We will not simply preserve public education. We will stand together to make American public education better than it has ever been, for every child in every zip code.

Colin Powell wrote an inspiring article in the Wall Street Journal titled “What American Citizenship Makes Possible.”

It’s ostensible purpose was to argue on behalf of immigrants and their contribution to our nation.

But in the course of making his case, he told a story about himself. His parents were immigrants from Jamaica. If they had chosen to go to England, he might have ended up as a sergeant. But as an American, he had the opportunity to rise to the top of the nation’s military. Why? Because of his free public education, from grade school through university.

The key paragraph:

“I’m a public-education kid, from kindergarten through to Morris High School in the South Bronx and, finally, City College of New York. New York University made me an offer, but tuition there was $750 a year. Such a huge sum in 1954! I would never impose that on my parents, so it was CCNY, where back then tuition was free. I got a B.S. in geology and a commission as an Army second lieutenant, and that was that. And it all cost my parents nothing. Zero.”

This article is especially enjoyable to see in the Wall Street Journal, because the WSJ is the nation’s most passionate media supporters of charters and vouchers. It never, never has a good word for public schools.

Read what Colin Powell wrote:

Colin Powell

July 26, 2016 7:05 p.m. ET

Many years ago, after I had become a four-star general and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Times of London wrote an article observing that if my parents had sailed to England rather than New York, “the most they could have dreamed of for their son in the military was to become a sergeant in one of the lesser British regiments.”

Only in America could the son of two poor Jamaican immigrants become the first African-American, the youngest person and the first ROTC graduate from a public university to hold those positions, among many other firsts. My parents arrived—one at the Port of Philadelphia, the other at Ellis Island—in search of economic opportunity, but their goal was to become American citizens, because they knew what that made possible.

Immigration is a vital part of our national being because people come here not only to build a better life for themselves and their children, but to become Americans. With access to education and a clear path to citizenship, they routinely become some of the best, most-patriotic Americans you’ll ever know. That’s why I am a strong supporter of immigration-law reform: America stands to benefit from it as much as, if not more than, the immigrants themselves.

Contrary to some common misconceptions, neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence than comparable nonimmigrant neighborhoods, according to a 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Foreign-born men age 18-39 are jailed at one-quarter the rate of native-born American men of the same age.

Today’s immigrants are learning English at the same rate or faster than earlier waves of newcomers, and first-generation arrivals are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or cancer than native-born people. They experience fewer chronic health conditions, have lower infant-mortality and obesity rates, and have a longer life expectancy.

My parents met and married here and worked in the garment industry, bringing home $50 to $60 a week. They had two children: my sister Marilyn, who became a teacher, and me. I didn’t do as well as the family hoped; I caused a bit of a crisis when I decided to stay in the Army. “Couldn’t he get a job? Why is he still in the Army?”

We were a tightknit family with cousins and aunts and uncles all over the place. But that family network didn’t guarantee success. What did? The New York City public education system.

I’m a public-education kid, from kindergarten through to Morris High School in the South Bronx and, finally, City College of New York. New York University made me an offer, but tuition there was $750 a year. Such a huge sum in 1954! I would never impose that on my parents, so it was CCNY, where back then tuition was free. I got a B.S. in geology and a commission as an Army second lieutenant, and that was that. And it all cost my parents nothing. Zero.

After CCNY, I was lucky to be among the first group of officers commissioned just after the Army was desegregated. I competed against West Pointers, against grads from Harvard and VMI and the Citadel and other top schools. And to my surprise, I discovered I had gotten a pretty good education in the New York City public schools. Not only in geology and the military, but also in wider culture. I had learned a little about music, about Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” and theater and things like that. I got a complete education, all through public schools, and it shapes me to this day.

This amazing gift goes back to 1847 when the Free Academy of the City of New York was created with a simple mandate: “Give every child the opportunity for an education.” And who would pay for it? The citizens and taxpayers of New York City and State. They did it and kept at it when the Academy became CCNY in 1866, because they knew that poor immigrants were their children. They were the future.

They still are. Today some 41 million immigrants and 37.1 million U.S.-born children of immigrants live in the U.S. Taken together, the first and second generations are one-quarter of the population. While some countries, like Japan and Russia, worry that population decline threatens their economies, America’s economic future vibrates with promise from immigrants’ energy, creativity and ambition.

Every one of these people deserves the same educational opportunities I had. It wasn’t, and isn’t, charity to immigrants or to the poor. Those early New Yorkers were investing in their own future by making education and citizenship accessible to “every child.” They knew it—and what a future it became!

We still have that model. But today too many politicians seem to think that shortchanging education will somehow help society. It does not. It hurts society. We need people who know that government has no more important function than securing the terrain, which means opening the pathways to the future for everyone, educating them to be consumers, workers, leaders—and citizens.

We are all immigrants, wave after wave over several hundred years. And every wave makes us richer: in cultures, in language and food, in music and dance, in intellectual capacity. We should treasure this immigrant tradition, and we should reform our laws to guarantee it.

In this political season, let us remember the most important task of our government: making Americans. Immigrants—future Americans—make America better every single day.

Gen. Powell was secretary of state (2001-05); chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93); and national security adviser (1987-89). This is adapted from his comments at a May 25 forum hosted by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York.