As I reflect this morning on the meaning of July 4th in our country, I am reminded of quotes by several of our forefathers but one in particular that resonated is a quote from Thomas Jefferson, made in 1814.
“It is highly interesting to our country, and it is the duty of its functionaries, to provide that every citizen in it should receive an education proportioned to the condition and pursuits of its life.”
We are at a crossroads today in public education and seem to have forgotten the impact that a quality public education system has on the children of today and our country tomorrow, how this impacts our freedoms. Does that mean that public education is the only avenue for educating today’s youth? That certainly is not the case and we need to be aware that there will be circumstances and situations where another form of education makes the most sense for our children.
But the acknowledgment of options to public education does not absolve our state and federal governments of the responsibility to support and, more importantly, adequately fund our public education system. If we are to remain a democracy, we must demonstrate a willingness to invest in our youth, those who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, there are those who believe otherwise and it is now more important than ever for public education advocates to step forward and engage with those who are making the decisions on the future of public education in America.
The First Amendment grants each of us the opportunity to speak our minds openly and freely and this is a right that must be exercised by all of us on a continual basis. It is not enough to simply believe in a philosophy that public education is the right of students in a democracy. Those who hold such beliefs must exercise the right to freedom of speech and to share their views and voices with those making public education decisions, including the State Board of Education, TEA and our legislators at both the state and federal level.
Another of Thomas Jefferson’s quotes that struck a chord with me is that, “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.” The more than 5.2 million Texas public education students have a right to a quality public education and the Texas Constitution, in Article 7, Section 1, outlines that obligation when it states that, “…it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”
There has never been a more critical time for public education in our country. There has never been a more important time for all of us to come together and to ensure that today’s public education students are guaranteed the right to a quality public education. Now is the time for all of us, as we celebrate the independence of our country, to Make Education a Priority.
Happy 4th of July!