Last night, the litany of cuts that our elected leaders have made to public education funding finally hit home. My wife and I attended an open house for schools in our area in order to start making a decision about where our five-year-old son will attend school this fall. We have struggled recently, as many parents do, with making a decision and are continuing to explore options and visit schools so we can make the best choice for him – a choice that will set the course for the rest of his life.
We are lucky, in that we have the resources and the flexibility to send our son to a school of our choosing. With our alternating work schedules and family that lives close by and helps us with childcare, we can make that decision comfortably. It’s a privilege that I am thankful for.
There have been several guiding factors in our decision-making process. Neither my wife nor I believe that education should be a for-profit industry, so charter schools are completely off the table. We have also really struggled with whether to stay in our home district or choose a district that is close by and boasts stronger scores on state assessments and a greater variety of educational programs. It has been a lot to consider, but beyond being overwhelmed, I am angry.
I am angry that the reason I have to make a “choice” at all is because of the relentless cuts conservatives have made to our school districts, making clear that they value profit above our children’s education.
I am angry that one open house that we attended for a top-tier school, a school that should stand on merit alone, felt more like a bazaar where each vendor was selling you the same goods with a different spin.
I am angry that our public schools have to compete with each other for students and try to scrape together budgets so kids can have books and paper without the teacher having to pay for it out of pocket.
Most of all, I am angry that because of conservatives’ disdain for the teachers’ union they will do anything in their power, including undermining students’ educational achievement, to try and break them.
We’ve been sold an idea that competition is what makes everything better, but with our kids’ future at stake, when does competition end and collaboration begin?
The truth is that our public schools need greater investment, but we can’t do it if we give for-profit charter schools $1 billion with zero accountability. We can’t do that if we continue to hand big business huge tax giveaways. And we sure as hell can’t do it if conservative legislators don’t stop playing politics with our kids’ future.