Nancy Bailey: Will the Future Include Free Democratic Public Schools and Teachers?
Nancy Bailey is wondering what the future holds. Reposted with permission.
Will today’s babies grow up with free democratic public schools, or will they attend schools stratified by wealth, with parents paying most of the cost, schools that allow for few differences, cyber schools without real teachers but online instruction, which collect unlimited data on children used for commercial and career tracking purposes? Will they be divisive schools?
I think most people from both parties want quality public schools with professional teachers and various classes that prepare children well for what interests them about learning, schools that are welcoming to everyone and teach what’s necessary and developmentally appropriate for individual children.
Yet some Americans need to remember that public schools are collectively for all children. We care for every child so that they will grow into caring and productive adults. That teen next door, who plays their music too loud for your taste, may one day be the adult that finds a cure for a disease or will show up on the holidays to fix your leaking plumbing.
Is School Choice Popular?
For years former governor Jeb Bush and many Republicans have enthusiastically promoted school choice. Bush recently penned a Wall Street Journal opinion piece School Choice Is Sweeping the Nation From Florida to Utah. He calls school choice freedom, but is it?
If parents get a voucher, it usually will only cover the partial cost of the school if their child gets accepted. This is especially true for the poor, whose children will wind up attending substandard charter schools or sitting at home staring at a computer screen.
Democrats also support school privatization with nonprofit and for-profit (what’s the difference?) charter schools. They’re okay with corporate partnerships, which can easily be seen as a threat to public school ownership, where companies tell educators and parents how to run their schools for their interests and earn profits through social impact bonds.
The 2022 Kappan Gallup Poll: Public Schools are Liked, But Teaching is in Trouble
Also, question Bush’s opinion because, according to the 2022 Kappan Gallup Poll, despite all the supposed anger surrounding COVID-19 and school closings, controversial books, CRT, gender identities, etc., Americans like their local public schools!
According to the results:
Americans’ ratings of their community’s public schools reached a new high dating back 48 years in this year’s PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,
Polls have shown this for years. Parents might believe other public schools aren’t good, due to what they hear, but they’re satisfied with their child’s local public school!
This is good news; it hardly seems like the end of public education or that Americans want school choice! Many Republican and Democratic parents share the hope of creating quality public schools for America!
But all is not well. The Poll also indicates that the public recognizes difficulties facing teachers.
. . .fewer than ever expressed interest in having their child work as a public school teacher.
This is serious since teachers are the backbone of a school. It doesn’t matter who’s on the outside looking in, all those far-removed politicians and policy wonks from both parties running nonprofits to tell teachers how they should teach, or faux teacher prep programs that supply unprepared individuals to classrooms. If public schools continue to lose great teachers, they will eventually close or be converted to cyber schools.
Are public schools perfect? No. Much has been done to them for years in the name of privatization. Most of us have been calling for the following doable changes for years that will also improve teaching as a profession. Feel free to add to the list.
- Make schools safer by lowering class sizes so teachers and staff can get to know students.
- Improve literacy instruction and make it age appropriate.
- Highlight cultures from around the world, so children learn to respect others.
- Insist there’s less testing and more individualized planning for every student to identify their strengths and improve weaknesses.
- Take pride in diversity, teaching students to cherish the differences that make us unique.
- Consider developmentally age-appropriate expectations at all grade levels.
- Provide every child access to the arts.
- Technology is important, but it should not replace teachers.
- Protect students from harmful data collection.
- Provide students with great vocational programs Career Technical Education in high school.
- Every school should include excellent school libraries with fully qualified school librarians.
- Career education in high school to help students understand the many jobs that exist and how to realize their interests.
- Ensure every child is respected and cherished for their differences.
- Provide all children with access to classes about life skills.
- Every child should have access to individualized and small group attention.
- Put an end to harmful practices like third grade retention and loss of unstructured recess.
- Increase teacher pay commiserate to the degrees, experience, certification and preparedness of the teacher.
- Create schools that bring families together through pride of sports, drama, music, art and more.
- Strengthen PTAs so parents and teachers work together.
- Make Teach for America Teacher Aides for America.
- Elected school boards should be responsive to the needs of parents and educators in their district.
- Improve crummy school buildings, an embarrassment to the country.
- Increase counselors and school psychologists, and help teachers identify students with mental health difficulties.
- Provide IEPs and classes to serve those students with severe behavioral disabilities so they are not in the general class.
- Improve Colleges of Education with quality teaching preparation and not with an emphasis on online or scripted programs.
- Require teacher certification in the area in which a teacher will teach, so teachers will be professionals.
- Return autonomy and resources to principals.
Most Americans want better public schools not a scattered approach of schools for the wealthy and schools for the poor, or to have their children facing computers all day. Let’s honor our students by providing them free quality democratic public schools that reject no one.
This needs to be a promise to our youngest children, that public schools will continue to be supported by Americans to work collectively with everyone.
The real democratic public schools in America belong to us, and it’s when we care for and cherish such schools that Americans and living becomes more robust and united. Sending children to a hodge-podge of different schools lacking accountability creates tremendous concerns for the future, for students and America.
Bush, J. (2023, Feb. 3) School Choice Is Sweeping the Nation From Florida to Utah, The Wall Street Journal, Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/school-choice-is-sweeping-the-nation-from-florida-to-utah-jeb-bush-education-learning-students-children-parents-11675435984.