Well, after a hiatus to celebrate the success of HB 5 implementation, it’s time to reengage. And I do mean “reengage”!
Faye Beaulieu, immediate past president of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), wrote an article in the August, 2014 edition of the Texas Lone Star magazine that pointed out what should be a very key consideration when we discuss the topic of “school choice”. Quoting Faye from the article, “… too many times (we) talk about “choice” in the education arena as a list of alternatives to our public schools. Public education is a choice, and it deserves to top the list.” Wow, is that a change in mindset for many of us.
Although now serving in my 10th year as a trustee in Carroll ISD, I know that I have generally centered the school choice discussion as most have, namely that school options other than public education really comprise “school choice”; that really couldn't be farther from the truth. Thanks, Faye, for pointing that out to all of us. So how do we reposition the conversation?
It starts with a change in mindset. The Texas Constitution defines the requirement for us to make a free public education available to all children in the State of Texas. But it does not entitle those of us in public education the absolute right to be the sole entities delivering education. Trustees, staff and administrators in our public school districts must earn the right to do so, and we all must do a better job of communicating our story.
In her article, Faye continued her comments that public education is a “choice” by encouraging each of us to better equip ourselves to tell the story, regardless of the audience. We have numerous organizations helping but, if you’re like me, you may not be fully tapping the resources that are at our fingertips. Think about some of these for a moment and how they can help you craft and deliver your message.
Just to name a few … TASB created a site called truthaboutschools.org. At the national level, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) created a campaign earlier this year called Stand Up 4 Public Schools (standup4publicschools.org). And there is a complimentary site, Stand Up 4 Texas Public Schools (standup4txpublicschools.org) that promotes advocacy. Locally, Friends of Texas Public Schools (fotps.org) and Make Education A Priority (schoolpriority.com) do an outstanding job of highlighting the accomplishments of the Texas public education system.
But it’s one thing to have the resources available to us; it is yet another to commit to using these resources to tell the public education story, a story yearning to be heard by students, parents, community members, legislators and other stakeholders. It’s time we told our story; it’s time that we channeled our energies toward the positives of Texas public education rather than staying on the defensive.
Our public education system, despite challenges relating to student growth, accountability, funding and other issues, does an outstanding job of equipping our students to travel the path toward success. Let’s make certain we are all a part of that journey!