Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Need to Invest in Public Education

The debate rages on about the use of education savings grants or vouchers, or whatever advocates for options to public school funding want to call it.  But the reality is that now, more than ever, we should be focused on investing in our students, not diluting spending and diverting dollars to other so called school choice options.  As a reminder, public education is, in fact, one aspect of school choice and it deserves to be recognized as such.

In no case has an industry or business succeeded without ongoing investment in that business.  Public education is no different!  Change is the norm and the discussion about the need for school reform fails to acknowledge that there is significant reform already underway in our public school system.  For example, the classrooms of today reflect a much more collaborative environment when compared to the rows of desks in the classrooms of the public schools most of us attended.  Whereas we once observed how teachers teach, we are now more focused on how students learn.  This is not a one-size-fits-all environment and reform is all about addressing the needs of a student population whose capacity to learn varies greatly.

The nearly 5.3 million public education students are not part of a factory production line where every widget that comes off of the line looks the same.  The inputs in the form of socioeconomic status, language challenges, and parental support, among other variables impacting a student’s ability to learn,  significantly impact the output to be achieved, namely a student poised to function, compete and excel in a changing world.  But this cannot happen without constant refinement and reform in the public education system … and that requires investment, not a shift of funds to other options.

Constitutionally, the State is required to fund public education (Article 7, Section 1) but many act and speak as if there is no obligation.  Ultimately and sadly, it will be up to the courts to decide what investment needs to be made.  Once that is defined, the responsibility will fall to the legislature to make the investments so critical to ensure opportunities and success for our children.  Without investment, the value of businesses declines over time; the risk is that failing to invest in students will ultimately diminish their ability to succeed.

The bottom line is that the discussion needs to focus on the student, not the political posturing that diverts attention and dollars from the classroom.  It is up to the legislature to find the political will and prioritization to Make Education a Priority.

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