June 4, 2014

school choice

I have read comments like this one countless times: "I stand behind school choice. If for no other reason than to light a fire under people's butts to change public education! Make it better! Put it back into the hands of the professionals, the teachers, and out of corporations and politicians" (friend on Facebook).

As a public education teacher for twelve years now, I can say there's a lot wrong with statements like these, and I feel a strong need to write about it.  As a result, here is today's post! Lucky you! ;-)

You can thank my debate background for this - and any other controversial posts that follow.

First, the disclaimers...

1. I pray no one thinks I'm personally attacking my friend who said this. Because that is NOT my motivation for writing this! Anyone who really knows me should know that, but I felt like it needed to be said.  What I'm going to attempt is to address the errors I see in the thinking represented by the above statement because that school of thought (pun intended ;) is becoming more prevalent in our society today.

2. I'm not going to be saying that every child should be educated in the public school system.  Please don't hear that anywhere in this post.  Special needs children - for example - who live in a district that cannot accommodate them should find an alternative.  Really, if you believe that your child would not be able to thrive for whatever reason in a public school setting, you should listen to that mommy gut (almost never wrong) and do what you believe is best for  your child. In fact, it's your obligation as a parent! I did that for my oldest when we delayed her entry into public education by having her in a private kindergarten setting, and she has done well in first grade this past year.

3. Along the same lines of that second disclaimer, I do believe homeschooling, private schools, and charter schools can provide awesome opportunities for students.

And now for today's post...

I, too, stand behind school choice - if you haven't already gathered that by reading through my disclaimers. There are many routes a parent can choose to see that his or her child ultimately becomes an educated, productive member of our society. This is a GREAT thing!  School choice is alive and well in our nation.

Let me say it again: I, too, stand behind school choice.  However, I cannot stand behind state funds being used to further any educational choice but the public school system.  Please, let me explain via a scenario:

My parents could never have chosen to home school me. They both had to work hard jobs with long hours to barely make ends meet.  In our reality, homeschooling could never have been a viable option.  Along those same lines, because of lack of funds (even if someone had given us a voucher to offset costs), private schooling could never have been a viable option.  And as for a charter school taking me in, well, you first would have to assume that my parents cared that much about my education to submit my name into one of those lotteries - my mom never graduated high school and my father suggested I just get married and have babies.  Besides, knowing my luck, in a charter school lottery, I wouldn't have been chosen.

So IF those choices had been the only choices available for my education, I would have ended up uneducated and struggling each day of my life to make ends meet just like my parents.

Thank God for public education! 

You see,  a very limited amount of children are - or can be - provided with an education via homeschooling, private schools, and/or charter schools.  For a vast majority, the only real, feasible choice for education is a public education. It certainly was the only option for me, and that is the reality for so many...

Yet, you (that is "school choice" proponents) want to take funds away from public education? You think this would be productive? God forbid it! On the contrary, every citizen should be happy to see their tax dollars go to such a noble and worthy cause!

Granted, public education has its flaws, but I would argue that so do the other educational choices many want to see their tax dollars go toward.  Yet, with the public school system we can guarantee that not just the wealthy or the well-off have access to something everyone should have access to - an education.  Yes, pubic education has its flaws, but the solution is not that we abandon ship and leave it to sink or, hopefully, sail with no assistance!

You want to "light a fire" under public education by stripping it of funding and fueling vouchers or for-profit charter schools? I warn you; it will burn down the very thing that holds the fabric of our nation together - an educated populace!

Support school choice, but do not support the diverting of funds away from public education - I beg you!  In supporting the defunding of public education you are trying to take away from me one of my choices for schooling my children!!  This is the height of hypocrisy!!!

You want to make things better? Vote! And vote for teachers who run for office!!

You want to make things better? Ask an educator how that might be done and not someone with little or no classroom experience.

Do those things, and you will put public education back INTO THE HANDS of us - the professionals, the teachers.  Instead, when you speak of defunding public education, you speak of cutting OFF OUR HANDS!

Yes!  Put it back into OUR hands!  Education should not be some great capitalist experiment where biased parties, such as Wal-Mart, and those who have never taught a day in their lives, such as Bill Gates, get to mold the education of our students. It's too valuable for that!

In closing, I, too, stand behind school choice, so, please,  I won't advocate to take away your choice if you don't advocate to take away mine.

Today's forget-me-not: Let's work together to foster the success of all school choices! It's in our best interests!!

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