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  • Writer's pictureJudy

May 28, 2023: Public Education

I just finished my 29th year as an elementary school teacher. I have spent this last week, packing up my classroom for the summer. Taking down bulletin boards, packing up supplies, throwing away outdated files. I have also been giving hugs, signing autograph books, and wiping tears (my own and others’). These are the end-of-the-school-year rituals that teachers everywhere are immersed in right now. We are in a world of mixed emotions.

While there are so many familiar rituals and routines that have remained constant over the years, being in education as long as I have, I have also seen many shifts and changes. Pendulums of pedagogy have swung; debates about best approaches for instructional techniques continue; educational research supports, then refutes certain practices. And through this constant changing landscape, teachers and schools adjust and make course corrections, in order to continue to do the work of educating children. We are constantly learning ourselves, in order to improve our practice and meet the needs of our students.

But I have never been as worried about public education as I am right now. It is clear that there are political groups who want to dismantle public schools. They want to privatize education. Turn the work of educating the children of this country over to private business interests. They have cut public education funding, while at the same time opening up more and more avenues to shift that remaining money from public to private schools. They continue to impose more restrictions and mandates on public schools, while exempting private schools, even if they get public money.

They are strangling public schools. They are clearly stacking the deck and setting public schools up to fail. And that should concern and outrage everyone, whether or not you have children, whether your children go to public or private school, and regardless of your political affiliation.

Public education is one of the things that has set our country apart and has helped us to be the land of opportunity that the world sees us as. Having an educational system that is accessible to every child, regardless of family income, location, or background, is what levels the playing field and provides opportunities.

Is it perfect? Of course not. That is why we are constantly learning and adjusting, so that we can better meet the mission of making sure that every child in this country gets the best education possible. But we should be working WITHIN the system of public education to make improvements, not devising ways to tear it apart.

By privatizing education, the “bottom line” then becomes money, not what is best or most effective for students. The goal is no longer to provide the best education for every child, but to further the agenda or goals of the owners of school, whether it is to earn more money or further a social or religious agenda. And that is not okay.

We must, as a country, protect all children’s right to a quality education. We must protect public education.

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