I hope you are as shocked as I was when I first saw this photo of a yard sign about a school finance election in Arizona. It prompted me to transform into an angry Lewis Black-type of stammering hissy fit, but that in itself is yet another story.
At least in the community in which the sign was posted, critics of public education did not beat around the bush and nibble away at the system with corporate or public-dollar voucher approaches to solving their perceived weaknesses of public education.
Nope, these folks have drawn a line in the Arizona sand. They just want to Destroy Public Education. This statement is so wrong on so many counts that space or attention spans don’t even allow me to list all the reasonable responses to such a moronic statement.
So, after public education, what’s next? Why not get rid of public safety? Police? Water treatment? Public sewer systems? Public colleges? Public health? Public veterans’ assistance, and so much more?
And when their homes’ market values go into the dumper — who would want to live in this service-less community? — the perpetrators naturally won’t look in the mirror for blame but will most likely chastise local government leaders for not providing those services, even though those leaders have inadequate budgets that force them to regularly play local government budget triage.
Okay, here are my points:
- Most of us admit that many of our schools do need to improve and we need to make them work. And by we, I mean total communities need to look at all of their options, including alternative approaches that may work better for some students and some communities. We must be open and transparent in making those decisions and just not draw our own lines in the sand when it comes to seeding new approaches in our education landscape.
- We need to begin saying, “Enough is enough,” when it comes to the extreme measures that some people are taking to destroy public education. For years, education leaders have remained fairly silent while critics have begun building a foundation of dismantling the very backbone of our democratic way of life. It is more than just pushing back; it means being more vocal and influential and smart when it comes to the future of public education. Just this week, it’s been reported that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a powerful lobbying group that has had much success in promoting the privatization of education, reducing public employee compensation, etc., has begun running into its own budget shortfalls. Some of their corporate members have withdrawn their support because of the powerful collective voices of our more aware citizenry. ALEC is still a force to be reckoned with, but it is great to see that some sunshine on their operations has created less enthusiasm and money for their type of lobbying. Early in 2014, NSPRA is preparing to add a new advocacy feature on our website that will help you make the case for public education.
- The secondary message to the yard sign, “Parents should pay for their own kid’s education,” sounds great to those who no longer have kids in our schools. And that still is a majority of taxpayers in our communities. Years ago, I used my own family as an example to dispel this empty-nester myth. I have two sons who have graduated from public schools — that translates to 26 years of K-12 public schools at an approximate per-pupil allowance of $8,000 per student back then. So, tuition was $8,000 each for their 13 years in our schools. Quick calculations show that the school district paid $208,000 for my sons’ education. My school taxes were running about $3,200 back then. Using those figures, it would take me 65 years of school taxes to pay “back” the cost of their education. In others words, thank goodness for effective public education!
- Consider learning more at NSPRA’s Annual Seminar being held this year in Baltimore from July 13-16. This year’s theme is Winning the Battle for Public Education. Just go to www.nspra.org to learn more about this year’s Seminar. Super-early bird rates apply until January 24, 2014.
And, finally, we saved the best news for last:
The district in Arizona where the yard sign was posted actually won its election. Let’s hope this awareness and activism continues as we all need to make our case for effective public education.
Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director