Being on a local school board is quite a labor of love but it certainly has its rewards in seeing children learn and grow. Through these Depression years it has been a challenge for the financing of schools and it has called for many tough decisions based on finances. Part of the problem as I see it is that Public School Superintendents, Administrators, Staff and Teachers are not actively engaged in helping to fund the schools programs. What I generally see is an entitlement mentality that says the State and Tax Payers are our sources of revenue and we will ask for more, bark about funding distributions in the state, harp on ‘unfunded mandates’ and raise local taxes.
To quote Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and if we (parents and educators) want our education system to remain vibrant and public than actions are needed now. The stage is set for State and Federal initiatives to make a mess of education like the mess they have procreate and fostered with health care. The governments desire is to privatize what we currently have in PreK – 12 with charter schools and outsourcing. As the NEA (National Education Association) states:
For many NEA ESP members, privatization is another word for FIRED! Privatization, or “contracting out,” is part of a broad campaign that seeks to transfer many parts of our community life, including the delivery of education services, into the hands of private, for-profit corporations. In many ways, the pushes for school vouchers and charter schools are parts of this same movement. While all of education is targeted by the privateers, ESP jobs are particularly at risk. Privatization is a threat to public education, and more broadly, to our democracy itself.
Granted I truly believe education needs to be reformed. However, I do not see privatization as the answer. In the long-term I believe it will only hurt our children and our democracy. To me the solution is for schools to look for new revenue sources and to do their service to the public in new and inventive ways. Schools need to enlist the support of their students and taxpayers. The also need to get support from local businesses. Schools need to promote a new mentality of being a part of the community rather than an institution of the state that they have become. Residents of the district need to get involved with the school. In addition, parents need to understand that parenting school age children takes more than just getting your child ready for the school bus in the morning and then getting them off in the afternoon. They need to be involved and help the school remain vibrant and know that education doesn’t stop once the child leaves the school.
Right now we have chosen to send our daughter to a private Catholic school. We are not wealthy, but the cost of the education relative to the value is what made us decide to go this route. Besides teachers who want to be at the school to teach rather than to pick-up a paycheck what we like was the requirement that we be involved. One of the areas I’m involved in is the Grant committee. So far this year our group of four members has been able to raise over $20,000 and then there is another $5,000 matching funds. All the work and service to obtain these grant was free!
When I bring up the need to find alternative revenue streams at Board of Education meetings I tend to get blank looks. When I suggest going after more grants the first response is that no one on staff has time but we could ‘hire’ a writer. I’m sorry but not having the time or hiring someone to do your work is a recipe for disaster. What I found last night was a member of the schools administrative team who recognizes this and is going to embrace asking for community support in writing grants for technology that will benefit the school, students and community. This is great and I will certainly try to help when the time comes!
Note: for more information on Charter Schools The Seattle Schools blog has a nice post titled ‘What is a Charter School‘