Dear Mr. Romney, I’m So Glad You Asked

Today you announced that you are ready to fix American education.  I’m happy for you.

What I find confusing is your view of the problem, and the goal of public education.  Then there’s your solutions, which, at least in my neck of the woods, seemed designed to create options that most people can’t or won’t take advantage of, solutions that don’t get anywhere near the root of the problem.

The basic problem you have right: poor and minority kids don’t get as good an education as other kids.  Yep.  For the most part, it’s been that way since public schools opened up, more than a hundred years ago.  They tend to have less funding, less experienced teachers, and much less support from families.  Yep.

But you seem to think that public education’s purpose is to give every parent the opportunity to send his kid to an effective school.  That is not the purpose.

Public education is supposed to give every child a solid education, regardless of whether the parents are in jail, on drugs, mentally ill, physically disabled, muddling through terrible poverty, dead, or just plain bad at parenting.  You don’t get to choose your parents.  And you shouldn’t have to rely on your parents being smart enough to choose a good school for you.  When you have messed up parents, your life is hard enough as it is.

If you focus on the rights of parents instead of the rights of children, only children with the savviest parents will get a good education.

In my city, I doubt vouchers would have much effect.  Private schools don’t have the capacity to serve students in our large, dysfunctional public district.  And I’m not sure they have an interest in developing that capacity, frankly.  It would be a huge change of mission for them.  Not to mention, they have a right to serve whomever they want.

The only parents who would navigate the voucher bureaucracy are the parents who have the time and knowledge and energy to do so.  At this point, most of the more functional parents have already pulled their kids out of the district anyway.  They’re in charter schools, like the one where I work, or they’re already in private school.

I also hate to mention, lest I sound selfish, but as a teacher, I’m aware that many private schools pay so little that you have to be married to work there.  And I’m not even dating anyone.

Yeah, I get that people who don’t want their kids to have sex ed or detention or learn about evolution will be thrilled.  I get that a few parents who live in crummy school districts will happily get the bump they need to send their kid to a nice private school.  That’s good for them, but suggesting vouchers as an improvement to our public education system won’t touch the needs of poor students.  They need more experienced teachers, more funding than other schools, not less, and fully funded before and after school programs to do the kind of enriching activities that wealthier students do on their parents’ dime.

Peace out,

Ms Elizabeth Schurman (AKA Schur-Schur; Schur-worm; Ms uh, uh, uh)

P.S. Every day I don’t get a lunch break, I sigh because I know if I could be in a union, I’d have time to heat up my lunch and go to the bathroom in peace.

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3 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Romney, I’m So Glad You Asked”

  1. Thank you Elizabeth. We seem to lose the thought that when we all do better, we all do better. This is a societal problem. We don’t seem to realize when we write off a portion of our society, we are affecting everyone. In my experience as a college educator students must have a stake in their future to succeed. If K-12 students already see themselves as written off and not able to succeed, we have not only lost people who could contribute and help us solve our problems, we have created more problems for our society to deal with. Why can’t we take ownership that this is and interdependent world and people being successful makes this a much nicer place for everyone to live.

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