To my heroes in public education and to my heroes who are leading advocates for people of color, make sure you take note of a new piece of legislation being introduced in Congress.
What does it say to you when one of our elected representatives to Congress does not believe our public schools are good enough for the children of our heroes who serve in the Armed Services of the United States?
One of the lead stories, this morning, on the front page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, reports that US Representative, Jim Banks, Republican from the 3rd Congressional District in Indiana, has introduced a bill that:
“. . . would let active-duty military families tap public funds to send their children to private schools.”
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette also reported that “Banks wrote an op-ed column about his legislation that was published this week in the Wall Street Journal under the headline ‘Military Families Deserve School Choice.’”
It is time that our public school policy makers, administrators and teachers accept the indisputable fact that a growing percentage of the American people, led by conservative politicians and corporate reformers who are advocates of “school choice,” have given up on public education as the best solution for preparing our nation’s children for the future. These powerful men and women seem perfectly content to let public schools in affluent communities go about their business, but they view public schools serving disadvantaged children and their families as a lost cause.
To our heroes in the Armed Services of the United States. We understand how you feel about your children because we feel the same about all children, but, is this the America you are fighting to protect? An America where not every child counts?
It is time for advocates for people of color and the poor to acknowledge that these same supporters of “school choice,” whether conservative Americans and their political champions or powerful corporate reformers, are willing to abandon your children and their schools, teachers and communities. They consider you and your children to be part of Governor Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent of American voters who are dependent on government” and do not matter.
How long are we going to sit by and let this happen?
To public school educators I ask you to consider that all the protests, marches, rallies, and teacher strikes in the world will not alter the reality that disadvantaged children in America, a disproportionate percentage of whom are blacks and other minorities, are failing in our most challenged public schools, by the millions. Teachers may not deserve the blame for creating this reality, but they will be blamed until they are willing to accept responsibility and declare to the world that what they are being asked to do in our public schools does not work for disadvantaged children.
Teachers have not shown a willingness to say it out loud, but you know in your hearts that the existing education process does not work for children who arrive for their first day of school with minimal academic preparedness, little or no motivation to learn, and less parental support.
You know this to be true every time a student shows up in your classroom who is so far behind that catching up seems impossible. Teachers know this to be true every time you are required to record an “F” in your gradebook and move your class on to a new lesson when many of your students are not ready. You know in your hearts that these kids need more time to learn but the education process does not allow you to give them that time. You do your best to help these kids when there are only one or two of them in your classroom but when the kids who need more time represent 25, 50, or 75 percent of the students in your class, it is impossible to give them the help they require.
For advocates for people of color who are still working hard to make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream a reality, surely you know that had it not been for the heroes of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, we might still be waiting for meaningful civil rights legislation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other such legislation was passed only because the civil rights movement could no longer be ignored.
Today, in this second decade of the 21st Century, public education is the civil rights issue of our time. I challenge advocates for children of color and advocates for public education to come together as a united front to stop the failure of disadvantaged kids, once and for all. Imagine a world, 10 to 13 years from now, when every single graduate from high school is armed with a portfolio of knowledge, skills, and confidence to enter mainstream America with real “choices.” All we need to do is go back to the drawing board to reinvent public education.
Here is the good news:
1. I have already gone back to the drawing board to reinvent public education and have developed an education model focused on success and rejecting failure. Use it as a starting point. If you think it will work, run with it. Or, it may inspire a better idea from one of you. You can examine my model at: https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/
2. Solving the problems in public education for all children, not just the disadvantaged, does not require an act of Congress. It does not require an act of your state legislature. All it requires is that we find a handful of public school superintendents willing to test this new education model, whether mine or yours, in just one of the lowest performing elementary schools in their district. Once proven to work, it can then be expanded to every school.
3. Implementing an education model that works for all children will also render irrelevant, the corporate reform and “school choice” movement.
Whatever you do, please don’t just sit there. There are millions of children who are desperate for your help, now.
It is public education on which the futures of our nation’s children depend, and it is our children on whom our nation’s future depends.