March 16, 2024

Nancy Bailey: Public Schools: Free, Open to All Students, Owned by the American People

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Earlier in the month, retired teacher and blogger Nancy Bailey honored a week of honoring public schools. Reposted with permission. 

We just wrapped up public school week. A week? Shouldn’t Americans be grateful for free public schooling and a nation that raises children to understand their world? And do they recognize how they own their schools and how public education has been under attack? Soon, Americans will pay for everything in education.

Sadly, some have turned on their public schools, one of America’s great democratic institutions.

Thankfully, many other Americans from both parties want better public schools for all children. They believe every child in America should have access to great public schools with good resources and well-prepared teachers.

What if we dropped vouchers and educational savings accounts, took the excellent charter schools run by teachers, and moved them under public education to be held accountable?

What if everyone united behind creating one great public school system for all children, with services supporting the uniqueness of every child?

Are public schools perfect? No. Much has been done to public education for years in the name of privatization, with policymakers and corporate billionaires believing they know how schools should run and how to make money from the funding that goes to schools.

America’s public schools are different and always impacted by social change, helping us evolve into better people.

For years, most of us have been calling for the following doable changes that will also improve teaching as a profession.

  1. Make schools safer by lowering class sizes so teachers and staff can get to know students better.
  2. Insist on less testing and more individualized and small group planning to identify student strengths and improve weaknesses.
  3. Elected school boards should be responsive to the needs of parents, educators, and the community.
  4. Insist that principals and school administrators at every level have education degrees and experience working with children.
  5. Improve literacy instruction, making it age-appropriate, assessing and individualizing student needs.
  6. Demand rules surrounding partnerships, so those who want to contribute to schools don’t take them over.
  7. Highlight worldwide cultures so children learn to respect others and our public schools become a showcase for the world!
  8. Take pride in diversity, teaching students to respect and cherish the differences that make us unique, including religious preferences.
  9. Address difficulties facing schools with the immigration influx and how to make all children feel welcome.
  10. Provide every child access to the arts in their public schools with certified art teachers in various areas.
  11. Technology is essential but should not replace teachers. Protect students from harmful data collection.
  12. Provide students with great vocational programs and career technical education in high school, helping them realize their interests.
  13. Every school should include excellent libraries with fully qualified librarians.
  14. Provide all children with access to life skills classes like an updated version of home economics.
  15. Reassess the assessments and consider developmentally age-appropriate expectations at all grade levels.
  16. End harmful practices like third-grade retention and loss of unstructured recess.
  17. Increase teacher pay commensurate to the teachers’ degrees, experience, certification, and preparedness.
  18. Strengthen PTAs by creating schools that unite families through pride in sports, drama, music, art, and more.
  19. Every school should offer a variety of well-resourced classes, including the sciences, history, geography, civics, and other innovative courses.
  20. Make Teach for America Teacher Aides for America, requiring professional teacher certification in the area teachers teach.
  21. Improve crummy school buildings, an embarrassment to the country. Schools should be welcoming places that students are proud of.
  22. Increase counselors and school psychologists and help teachers identify students with mental health difficulties.
  23. Provide IEPs and classes to help students with severe behavioral disabilities get the services they need.
  24. Improve Colleges of Education with quality teaching preparation and not with an emphasis on online or scripted programs.
  25. Return autonomy and resources to principals and teachers.

Living becomes more robust when we care for and cherish our public schools. We have a better chance of uniting. Sending children to a hodge-podge of different schools, lacking the necessary support and accountability, creates tremendous concerns for the future, students, and America.

This needs to be a promise to our youngest children and our teens that public schools will continue to be supported by Americans to work collectively with everyone.

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