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Public schools often get a bum rapv

Too often, good teachers who work hard to help students achieve to their ability are criticized -- just imagine having 30 kids in your home. I've had some education experience as a middle and high school teacher for six years, 11 years as a publi...

Too often, good teachers who work hard to help students achieve to their ability are criticized - just imagine having 30 kids in your home.

I’ve had some education experience as a middle and high school teacher for six years, 11 years as a public school administrator and 19 as a college professor. Let me profess here a bit today.

I cringe when I hear somebody bad mouth public education. It isn’t a surprise. Bad news gets attention As one wag put it, bad news will travel uphill like a forest fire on a windy day, but good news is difficult to push downhill with a sharp prod.

Why does bad news travel so fast? Bad news is new and different. It is the unexpected; we pay strict attention. What caused it? Why? Who was the culprit? Where? What is the impact? How? When?

Good news is commonplace. Ninety percent of public education students do many great things on a regular basis. You wouldn’t care to hear, repeatedly, the good news of how many students turned in all their homework assignments, received passing grades, were not truant, tardy or guilty of breaking any school rules. That doesn’t begin to cover the many good things that happen regularly. It would become uninteresting. But when some of those students go astray, that is news.

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Something that is extremely important for student success is the money available for education. It’s no surprise to anyone in our capitalistic society. Students who come from homes with adequate money are blessed indeed. Those homes have a variety of reading materials with educational value. The families have made trips with educational values and students have attended camps and had other opportunities.

One extreme opposite comes from a home in the “ghetto” where a single mother is responsible for all factors in that home, too often with little money to cover the basic food and clothing needs. If that were the only disparity, parental lack of money, the schools in very poor districts would be able to catch up to some degree. But, states have primary responsibility for funding education and most states call it equalization aid. The problem is for the common school districts the aid is not equal. That would raise taxes to a level state taxpayers would not support. The poor school districts cannot make up the total disparity. So teachers can obtain higher wages and many move to districts with higher salaries so the poorer districts have more inexperienced teachers.

So youngsters in those poor districts continue to get short changed.

Another factor that gives education a lower public image is the frequent reform movements. We’ve had a lot of them, new grade groupings, new math and science curriculums, new classroom arrangements, new textbooks and that list is too long to cite here. Bad news helps make the market and products to improve schools are welcome income for the promoters. Charter schools now are making a call for taxpayer money and more frequently receiving it.

Public schools are a most important aspect of a democratic society, but more wealth is needed for parents raising children and schools seeking to equal funding. A late and poorer start doesn’t get better. The achievement spread becomes wider.

Wouldn’t it be great if public education could receive money in the quantity that military expenditures receive?

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D., is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at bernie3024@gmail.com .

 

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