Making money off of children, education, and dysfunction within parts of the educational system is a rising trend because of the profits and goals of some problematic corporate actors. Language around privitization and corporatization permeates educational discourse among grassroots groups, union organizers, and educators. This is important and has limits. The most powerful statement that can unite the most powerful group of actors and public response is to make a clear statement about the end of profiteering within educational change work. This calls government contractors, speakers, corporations, technical service providers, and district and government leaders all into account and into view.
Our nation’s educational system is like big band or orchestra: it has many groups of players with specialized jobs, such as school boards, taxpayers, families, teachers, principals and administrators. The orchestra sounds best when each musician is skilled, the instruments are well-tuned, and the sections work together in harmony toward the common goal of playing the best music they can. There’s no way to make beautiful music if all your string players have broken bows. To help all students succeed, we need the policy-maker section – players like county boards and state legislatures – to stop neglecting whole sections of our orchestra that lack instruments and sheet music simply because of the zip code where they were born.
It is important that we recognize that programs and services are not equally distributed across all communities in our country. Some communities are struggling because they are not given a fair chance to do well. When some communities are denied the resources they need, they are unable to overcome problems like poor health and education. We need to level the playing field so that every community has access to quality health and education programs and services. Some education reforms would allocate societal assets more fairly among communities, whether they are rural or poor.
Public education is a public good that is vital to our nation’s wellbeing and requires adequate investment to ensure thriving communities.
Every state explicitly guarantees a free public education in its Constitution, affirming America’s founding belief that only an educated citizenry can preserve democracy and safeguard individual liberty and freedom.
There is growing pushback against the recent trend of disinvestment in communities and dismantling of public schools to encourage civic investment in the community, public education, and social justice.
Greater civic investment in public education requires the collective, cross-sector efforts of an entire community, include policymakers, civic leaders, community organizations, private philanthropy, the business community, higher education institutions, and other education stakeholders.
State legislatures should aggressively equalize funding disparities between low and high wealth communities and should target additional funds based on concentrations of poverty, English Language Learners and students with disabilities. All sections of our orchestra need the means and opportunity to improve and succeed for the music to turn out right. Student-based budgeting formulas, which allocate actual dollars directly to schools based on each one’s particular mix of students, is the means with the most potential to ensure all students succeed and contribute to our future.
Do you know other resources we should profile here, or do you have questions about this issue? Email IDEA Director of Learning, Dana Bennis at dbennis @ democraticeducation.org