Tuesday, April 5, 2016

School Priority Month - Opening in October

Make Education a Priority (MEaP), a non-profit public education advocacy organization, has announced plans to coordinate School Priority Month in October of each even numbered calendar year as a precursor to the upcoming legislative session in January of the following year.  Because public education is in the cross-hairs, combined with the fact that there is significant misinformation or a reluctance to acknowledge factual information about our public schools, MEaP has set a goal to educate elected officials in our communities about the positive things that are happening every day in our schools.

Studies have consistently shown that parents and community members generally have a positive perception about their local schools.  While there are admittedly campuses and districts that are not fully meeting the needs of students in their schools, the vast majority of schools are, in fact, seen positively.  Does that mean we should be satisfied with the status quo?  Certainly not; the reality is that we should always challenge ourselves, our schools and our students to do better.  But in order to understand what the term "do better" means and the context for hosting School Priority Month on our campuses, we have to first establish a baseline.

Public education and so-called school choice options beyond the constitutionally mandated public school system remain a hot topic, and legislative leaders have expressed an intent to again make this a focal point of discussion during the upcoming 85th Legislative Session.  As public education advocates, the time for us to act and to impact that discussion is now; School Priority Month will be but one element of the overall advocacy effort and need.

While definition of School Priority Month is still in its formative stage, Make Education a Priority will be working with local district leadership, as well as our elected representatives in Austin, on a program to invite all elected officials to visit their local campuses during the month of October.  Over the course of a day, or perhaps even just an hour or two, elected officials will have the opportunity to visit with campus leadership and to observe the education system at work in our classrooms.  

Our elected officials will witness firsthand what and how students are learning, a learning process that has evolved significantly from the way most of us learned when going through public schools.  Through observation, these officials will gain an enhanced perspective of how public education is developing the leaders of tomorrow, in sharp contrast to statements and misinformation suggesting otherwise that permeates much of today's debate.  At the end of the day, it is our hope that our elected officials will take the time to debrief what they saw by meeting with the entire campus staff.

Between now and the end of the 2015-2016 school year, Make Education a Priority will continue its efforts to define this program, an effort that will require close collaboration with not just districts and elected officials, but with other public education advocacy groups.  It is an effort that will provide an opportunity for elected officials to better understand what they individually can do to impact public education.  It is an effort that will yield positive results and a better understanding of the good in public education.  We welcome the opportunity to focus on the successes of the nearly 5.3 million Texas public education students and the importance of continuing to Make Education a Priority.

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