I read an article today where Brittish Prime Minister David Cameron calls for the elimination of all public schools in the UK and to replace them with private academies. So what, right? It’s not even our continent.
The problem is these same conversations are taking place here, in America, in Texas! There are those who think private funding and vouchers make educational opportunities better. They try to convince us it is good for all because it allows choice. I say don’t believe the rhetoric. Privatization allows small interest groups to push their agendas. Believe it or not, they may not actually be concerned about your child’s education. Most are worried about the dollar it puts in their pockets.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on Texas Businessman Bill Hammond. He has a great deal to say about public education being less than quality and questioning school funding. If you look carefully, he just puts the same, tired story in multiple newspapers around the state. He repeatedly tweets broken links that are supposed to provide evidence and he won’t respond to an opposing viewpoint. He doesn’t have answers. I doubt he’s been to a public school recently (even though I’ve invited him to mine!). Otherwise, he would understand the rest of the story. Much more of his communication is about business and money. If you ask me, this isn’t someone who cares about the quality of education for future generations. He cares about his profit margins and funding for his special interests. If less money goes into education, he might get more funding for his projects. His arguments are unsubstantiated propaganda used as a scare tactic to evoke fear in the middle-class American. Instead of questioning his motives, people extend trust. I mean, why wouldn’t he want what is best for our children, right? Hmmm.
Here’s why a system solely based on privatization of schools won’t make the United States education system better:
- The money will decide. In public education, voters have a say. They elect their officials. They vote for or against educational laws. They have a voice into curriculum and policy through input sessions. If they take the time to speak up, education can reflect community values. It’s like I tell my own children,
when you pay your way, you get to decide when, where and how to do things. Personally, I’m not ready to give all that power over to someone else so that they will foot the bill. Their values likely represent a small population. I want the power of input, not an absolute monarchy controlled by the ones with the most money. Look at how our voters are reversing their views on how we are using standardized testing. It’s because the average American has some say into what they value.
- Privatization will cause more division rather than unify our community. The root cause of education issues in America isn’t schools. It is a different value system amongst different groups including their views of schools. Sometimes families from poverty haven’t experienced personal success in schools. Lack of personal success tied to schools can result in them not seeing the value of education, but rather a task that has to be completed. If they don’t value education, they aren’t likely to take up an offer to move to a different school, even if the one they attend is not the best. If someone is trying to survive poverty, their biggest focus is just that, survival. If the only groups that take advantage of vouchers and school choice are those not living in poverty, it means an exodus of the middle class and greater socio-economic division. When people feel disenfranchised, they get angry. They feel the rest of the world doesn’t see them as people, so they have nothing to lose. I believe if you look at any situation of violence against communities, whether it be school shootings or city riots, it was because someone felt treated as less than human. When that happened, they reached their breaking point, and they acted “less than human.” Can we afford to take this risk?
- There is no proof privatization solves the problems facing education. Private schools pick and choose their students. They often aren’t held accountable to the full extent of education law. Educating a diverse community is much more challenging than a school where you have the ability to say “you are not meeting our standards, so you’ll need to look elsewhere.” What happens to those considered by private schools to be “substandard?” Do they get no education? Are they put into one school of misfits? If that seems like a good alternative, please reread bullet number two.
It’s time to solve problems of education at their core and stop blaming public education. No, it’s not perfect, but the number of schools that are doing great things far outweighs those that are struggling. Even when you see a school deemed “unacceptable” by standardized testing, you should look deeper than the numbers. Are they growing? Is there another issue that needs to be addressed in the community before instruction can take place? Most school districts already offer open enrollment and choice. Has it solved the problem or made it worse?
Public schools are doing great things for students. They are standing up against one-size fits all education. Teachers are becoming innovative in their practice to prepare students for a future that is undoubtedly beyond what our minds can conceive. They don’t do it for themselves, money, or personal fame. They do it because it is what is right. We have always been told we shape the future. That’s what we are trying to do. We want the future for everyone to be better than it was yesterday.
I’m not opposed to private schools, charter schools, religious-based schools or home schools. I believe every child deserves a free and appropriate public education, and you have the right to choose an alternative and pay for it if that meets your needs. Just don’t trash an entire system with propaganda for self-serving goals that likely aren’t based on whether the education system is working or not. One-size fits all judgments can’t be one hundred percent accurate and don’t solve the real issue. If we work together to make public education a priority and support our schools, it is the most viable solution for everyone, not just a privileged few. The end result of a strong public educational system is diverse groups of people becoming literate problem solvers who know how to get along and respect each other in our society.