As I put down on paper my thoughts about the state of education in our country and community I wonder just how many people really care about public education. The views of our elected officials resonate on the idea of choice; but what does choice really mean? We were sold a bill of goods, a few years ago, that we needed choice to get kids out of failing schools and that every child had the right to a great school where their needs could be met. The reality of the situation is that we simply shifted monies from already high performing public schools to charters or vouchers for private school use. The kids in the most failing schools are still there and aren’t likely to go anywhere soon. After all, who really cares about “this” group of kids? Sometimes public schools are the only social network for the most vulnerable in our communities, our poorest children. Schools have worked with them for years and in some instances since infancy. In school, they are unfortunately most likely going to be academically weak, they have a myriad of special needs, they have attendance problems and they will expect the school to take care of all their social concerns. The money that will come with these kids will not be worth the effort required of the voucher receiving private schools or the total cost of educating the student in the Charter School. When you provide all needed services, the price isn’t cheap. If we don’t pay the upfront cost, then the outcome to the community can be devastating.
Students usually have the greatest chance to succeed in environments where education is valued and parents take an active role. The problem we face in public education today is that we don’t have enough active parents pushing their kids to accept nothing but their best. Our system is marred in the idea that we can fix all social ills. This can’t be done by public schools, private schools, or through the use of vouchers. If we want to help children then we need to stop making education a political battle and make it a community battle. Get communities involved in all aspects of educating their children. Don’t let politicians make educational choices for our community but help empower parents to make those choices. Every school can get better but we need all parents to help. We need parents to value having their children in school every day. We need parents to have constant contact with teachers and administrators when problems are first noticed at home. We need them to demand study time and rest from their children. We need less time on-line and more time on-learning. Research has always shown that the best time to demonstrate you care about your child’s educational development is when he/she is young and by reading together each night. I just want to challenge each one of our parents to become more active in your child’s educational life. Not active just when there is a concern but active all the time. We have an abundance of ways to communicate between home and school. Please try and use this to your advantage and most importantly to your child’s advantage. We need to stop the political bantering and get serious about what we as a community can do for our kids. After November’s election, no one really cares in Washington or Indianapolis about the real educational concerns of our community. Politicians answer to those much more powerful than all of us. We are approaching summer and the end of another school year. Take this summer break and decide what you are going to do to make your student a better student next year.