Do we truly care about our children regarding their education? I’m not so sure. If we purely take a look at the actions of so many, I would have to answer on the negative side of the question. Let me explain my perspective.
I am a retired elementary school teacher and elementary school principal with all of my experience from three different public school districts in the Tucson metro area. The schools are located in three different socio-economic areas of the Tucson community. Although there may be differences in some ways, there is one common thread for every location, that being that each area has children who deserve a very high-quality education. In fact, every child in every location in America deserves that very high-quality education. Sadly, not all of these children in America are getting what they deserve. Adults, with different roles, are letting many of these children down. The adults are supposed to be their advocates as these children go through life.
It is time for me to “fess up” in regard to my experiences as a public school employee. As a principal, I bought into the philosophy that federal and state funds should go to only the public schools. After several years away from that period of time, I have come to grips with the fact that I was misguided in my thinking. Although, for me personally, I was blessed with the good fortune of being a part of some excellent schools. Recently, someone I respect shared this thought with me. “I reserve the right to get smarter.” Actually, I do look at it that way.
I do believe very strongly that if we truly care about our children in America, then we need to offer each one of them a very high-quality education, whether it be in a public, private, charter or parochial school. Each child, along with their parents, deserve the opportunity to select the school of their choice. With that selection, the federal and state funding should follow that child to that chosen school. After all, they are tax dollars. Competition is essential for this plan to work as intended. It should follow a business model. The schools that provide the children with a high-quality education along with demonstrated results, academically and behaviorally, will prosper. Those that don’t meet the high-quality standards, both academically and behaviorally, will see their own demise, as it should be.
Two key words that go along with the stated plan are “standards” and “expectations.” From my perspective, it is so clear to me that when considering these two words with what is happening in our society today I see a great deal of “dumbing down” academically and behaviorally in too many schools. Remember, it is those adults in their various roles that are doing this to the children. It does not need to happen, and it absolutely should not be happening. To the adults with a role in the lives of all of America’s children, it is time to wake up and provide these children with the high-quality education that will change their lives forever. “School Choice” is the key!
In closing, if what I have shared strikes a chord with you, and you’d like to learn more about what can be done to provide a high-quality education for every child in Arizona, I highly recommend you go to the website for the Arizona Coalition of School Board Members, www.azcoalition.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, to learn more about how you can become involved in a very focused effort on behalf of our children. You do not need to be a school board member, past, present, or future to become involved and make a difference. Thank you.
Bob Lenihan is a retired Arizona public school elementary teacher and principal, a husband, father and grandfather, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and a member of the Arizona Coalition of School Board Members.