Pastors for Texas Children (@pastors4txkids) recently tweeted a quote by Raise Your Hand Texas (@ryhtexas) that really struck a chord with me and supports a belief that I have had all along when it comes to addressing the challenges of the so-called “failing schools”. Their quote:
“If the voucher debate is really about kids, we’d target those 70 or 80 struggling schools out of 8,500 public schools and we would give them the resources they need to succeed. The Legislature consistently refuses to do that.”
It reminds me of the discussion about the failing transportation infrastructure in our country but where it differs is that we talk about fixing the roads and bridges that make up the infrastructure that fuels our economy. Imagine if that discussion were to focus only on starting over with other options at the expense of the existing infrastructure. Could we afford that?
The obvious answer is no but this seems to be the perspective of those who want to funnel dollars from public education to other options. I am not suggesting that options should not be in the mix; if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be having discussions about high speed rail and mass transit as solutions to address a multitude of transportation problems. What I am suggesting is that all options need to be discussed, not one solely at the expense of others.
The more than 5.3 million public education students deserve better. If a student is in a failing school, they are owed the commitment of their district, their community and their families to do all that they can. And while the quote may have focused on funding challenges, that is but one part of the equation. What is needed is first of all an acknowledgment of the challenges these schools and thee students face, followed quickly by a commitment to address these issues and, more importantly, set a longer term course toward a quality education for those students. Incidentally, for a perspective on how one district is addressing issues and anticipating challenges, see my blog about Austin ISD.
Simply throwing money at the issues these schools face will not solve the problem. To truly make a difference in the lives of students in struggling schools requires a commitment of the community, including parents, the board of trustees, district and campus administrators, business partners and the students themselves. All should share a common purpose, namely to Make Education a Priority for students in all public schools. As with the transportation infrastructure, an investment in our public schools will generate a significantly greater return than walking (or running) from the challenges.