Reclaim The Promise To Public Education; Stop Starving Our Schools

Community groups are working to ‘Reclaim The Promise’ we made to future generations to provide a strong, well funded, high quality public education. 

public school sign brick building The national debate on education reform rages on everyday, in every school district, in every state across the country.  Some say that schools are failing our children, while others say the schools are failing our children.  No that is not a typo, both sides are essentially saying the same thing; we need to fix our broken education system to provide a better education for our future generations.

The major differences erupt when both sides offer their solutions to fixing our broken education system.  Those ‘fiscally conservative’ politicians on the right blame teachers unions and bad teachers, and suggest we eliminate public schools for private charter schools. Proponents of public schools see the problem stems from a lack of community support.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, has been outspoken about the attacks on public schools and this idea that privatization is the only option to help our public schools.  In recent phone interview Weingarten stated, “Austerity cuts are starving our public schools.”

Karen Schow is special education teacher working in Boise, Idaho.  She has seen these austerity cuts directly affecting her students.  Due to budget cuts, Schow is now the only special education teacher in her entire school.  She works with multiple special needs students including students with Down’s syndrome, all alone.  Just last year the school had two full time special education teachers, but the school cut that down to one.  “These cuts are hurting my kids,” Schow told me in a phone interview. “Politicians are short changing not only my students but students across the state.”

Kia Hinton is parent and outspoken public school advocate from Philadelphia.  Hinton highlighted how “Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett, cut over one billion dollars from the state’s education budget”.  This forced dozens of school closures, mostly in areas that directly effect children of color.  Areas that are already struggling to fight poverty, violence, and other community issues.

Closing public schools makes it harder for working families.  Schools are farther away, underfunded, and overcrowded.  These cuts hurt the children the most.

Hinton talked about how some of the schools in her area no longer have a school librarian if they are still lucky enough to have a library at all.  They have also cut art programs and music classes, which are necessary for a well-rounded education.

Weingarten said that, “politicians are pushing to ensure that public schools are failing to open the door to their alternative ideas”.  Their alternatives include; charter schools, privatized schools, or to just close the school entirely. Politicians have been pushing for privatized for-profit charter schools, yet these charter schools are failing to meet the needs of their communities.

Just like in Philadelphia, Chicago and Kansas City as closing public schools to open private for-profit charter schools.  John Jackson President and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education said, “Corporations are making profits on the backs of our students.” Not only are they making money on our children, they are taking your tax dollars to bolster their profits.  Yet there these for-profit charter schools are not preforming any better than their public counterparts in the same area.

Lora McDonald a social worker and the Executive Director of More2 said these for-profit schools failing in Kansas City.  McDonald said that four of these for-profit charter schools have closed in the last year.  McDonald said that not only are the charter schools failing, “kids in public schools have continually out-preformed those in charter schools.”

The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association, other unions and community groups are working to ‘Reclaim the Promise’ that we have made to our future generation by provide a high quality public education.

Everyone deserves his or her chance to reach the American Dream.  For many this dream has become more of a myth, completely unattainable. Weingarten spoke to how a strong public education is crucial to reaching the American Dream.  Weingarten stated, “This is a movement to reclaim public education.”

Talking about ‘Reclaiming the Promise,’ John Jackson stated, “Public education is strong at and it works. Want to make sure it works for all children. Public education is the foundation for economic prosperity for millions of Americans.”

This is why communities are rallying behind the need to ‘Reclaim The Promise’.

  • Reclaiming the promise is about fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning.
  • Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that teachers and school staff are well prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.
  • Reclaiming the promise is about making sure our children have an engaging curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not testing, and includes art, music and the sciences.

Communities throughout the country will be standing together to on December 9th in a national day of action. Over 100 community groups and unions have signed up to take part in this event.  Weingarten stated that this is a “bottom up event.” Unlike other union lead events this one is coming up from parents, and community organizations that want to make real change in their communities.

Everyone deserves to be able to get a high quality education, and public schools can provide that.  We need to invest in our future by investing in our public school system.  A strong public school is the bedrock of our society.  When your son or daughter says they want grow up to be President, it is a strong public school system that can make their dream a reality.   Just as President Clinton, a graduate of Hot Springs High School, a public magnet high school in Arkansas.

 

 

RTP_banner-2Click here for more information about the National Day of Action.

If you are interested in hosting your own event as part of this national day of action, click here and tell AFT about it.

 

A message from Bill Duncan: Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

Cross-posted with permission

Friends of New Hampshire Public Education,

Well! We have a lot to digest from the election.  In this brief Update, I won’t try to accomplish too much – just get us oriented for the coming session.

The top line is that we elected friends of public education.  The budget challenges have not gone away but the debate this year will about solving problems and strengthening our schools in New Hampshire – and how to pay for that – rather than about dismantling public education.  The assault on public education was only one component of the larger assault on government in all its forms, but it’s fair to say that voters have rejected that.

It’s certainly fair to call Governor-elect Hassan an all-out advocate for public education.  She sees our public education system, including higher education, as the key to our development as a state.  And most of our legislators – new and returning, Republican and Democrat – and are strong supporters as well.  Opposition to public education was one the issues that brought candidates down.  Some of the winners even ran on their opposition to the voucher plan.

In response, we will now call ourselves “Advancing New Hampshire Public Education,” rather than “Defending…”  Updates will be called “ANHPE Updates.”  And we  have a new web site (here) because so much of the “Defending…” site will not be relevant to this year’s legislative debate.  The “Defending…” site will remain up, though, and we’ll refer to it as needed.

The new site is more in a blog format, with more opportunity for interaction.  I’ve listed the pre-filed education bills (here) though many of the old standards like proposals to disband the Department of Education will no longer be relevant.  We’ll weed them out as we go along.

I would not suggest that we have a real agenda for this session at this early stage, but here are some of the points I would make:

 

The voucher plan

The constitutionality of the voucher bill has not yet been challenged in court but may still be soon.  One bill concerning the voucher plan has been filed by Rep. Peter Sullivan of Manchester (Legislative Services Requiest 2013-H-0190-L).  Since Rep. Sullivan opposed the voucher bill last year, this may be the beginnings of an effort to repeal the voucher plan.  Most defenders of the plan have retired from elected office (Sen. Forsythe) or been defeated (Rep. Hill), so there may not be much of a constituency for this orphan bill in the new Legislature.  In case the voucher plan does survive, I have commented on the proposed regulations, suggesting greater reporting transparency on what happens to the state’s money.

 

University system funding

Restoring the drastic cuts to UNH and our community college system will be a high priority for the Governor and many legislators.  Finding the money for this will not be easy but restoring cuts to the cigarette tax and the motor vehicle registration surcharge would be a good starting point.

 

Education funding

Last year’s efforts to eliminate the state obligation to fund public education, to eliminate the fundamental right of our children to an adequate education and to minimize the authority of our courts in education will probably not gain real traction this year.  But the perennial discussion of a constitutional amendment to allow targeting state aid to the neediest communities is bound to come back this year.  It’s a complex subject that even strong supporters of public education disagree about.  In the opinion of many experienced advocates, however, that we do not need a constitutional amendment to target sufficiently.  We will try to promote a constructive solution to this issue this year.

 

School building aid

The last Legislature essentially opted out of any significant state support for building schools, a severe blow to public education in New Hampshire, especially to any community with a small tax base.  Under the current plan, no real money would be available for years.  This will surely get further discussion this year.

It will take time to address these and other pressing issues like vocational education funding, support for our community colleges and support for early childhood education.  But New Hampshire’s economy and state revenues will probably improve over the next four years, along with the national economy as a whole.  There will be many demands on these expanding revenues but we will advocate for investing a fair proportion in education, for the benefit of the kids and the development of the State.

 

Bill