As I listened to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s speech at the Republican National Convention I heard him say, “We believe in teachers” and then heard how he is against any type of teacher union. I thought; he should have said, we believe in teachers as long as they continue to be accountable to political beliefs about education. The GOP educational platform believes education should provide a chance for every child. The platform states the educational reform movement calls for, “higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of State and local control of our schools, and it wisely sees consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing our schools.” In other words: Choice for parents such as charter schools or vouchers. If parents do not see a school as providing an opportunity for their child to “reach their potential,” that parent should have the choice as a “consumer right” to leave that public school and place their child in another school of their “choice.” Of course those same parents do not want their taxes to increase or teachers to receive more pay or benefits. They just want to move their child to a school that has a record of performance. Where does this leave public schools? Where does this leave our students? I learned the goal of public education in this nation was to educate ALL students who walked through the doors. This belief means that at times a school may not achieve lofty test scores, but it does NOT signify teachers and students are not working hard to meet or exceed their potential for leaning.
I agree throwing money at schools without a plan for improved teaching and learning does not “equal better performance,“ but neither does continuing the ideal that teachers should work longer, produce more, silence their voice and quit their unions, or just go along with whatever the current political administration puts forth. But a platform that sees “consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing our schools” may be worse than doing nothing. To me, that is arguing for the demise of the public educational system, and that is not an answer. Why effectively dismantle the very system that helped produce many of these potential leaders?
I encourage every educator to read and speak about the GOP and Democratic education platforms and not be silent as we head into the election in November. If our profession remains silent, our teachers and students may have another initiative like NCLB thrust upon us. I encourage all to join our efforts, here or on the KDP main page. Get involved in the advocacy committee’s work and participate in the conversations that are going on through blogs on other sites. Together we can guide, lead, and “acknowledge the need for change when the status quo is not working. New systems of learning are needed” but with our guidance and expertise.
By: Marcia Bolton