One can only wonder why the public, particularly the African-American community, has not responded to the threat posed by current educational reforms with the same zeal and anger displayed in response to the tragedies in Ferguson, Missouri and in other communities throughout the U.S.
While symptoms of deep racial enmity will continue to plague our society, at least the senseless targeting of young blacks will no longer go unnoticed. Such incidents are sparks from the static electricity generated by the friction between the races; they are symptoms of an underlying pathology.
Until recently, like many white Americans observing the incidents in Ferguson and elsewhere, I understood the fear and anger of black America at an intellectual level, only. It was not until I became the grandfather of a young black male that I began to feel it at a gut level. That my sweet young grandson may someday be judged by the color of his skin rather than by “the content of his character” is agonizing on a deeper level than I could have ever imagined.
As great as it may be, however, the tragedy of young blacks being profiled by police officers and by our justice system pales in comparison to a tragedy being perpetrated against Americans of all races living in the poorest urban and rural communities of our nation. This tragedy, which is being systematically executed by of our state and federal governments, is the remarkable disassembly of our systems of public education.
It is difficult enough to understand why so many of the leaders of American government and business are committed a “policy of abandonment” of our nation’s most challenged public schools. What is even more difficult to understand, in the midst of this systemic attack against our public schools and teachers, is the apparent apathy on the part of Americans from all segments of our population. It is astonishing that our public school teachers and other public school educators seem to be the only people who see what is happening.
Where are the protests by African-, Hispanic-, and other minority Americans who must surely recognize that an attack against our public school teachers and their schools is also an attack against their children? Where is the outcry from white Americans whose children depend on our rural and urban public schools? Where are protests of local employers in communities throughout our nation who depend on our public schools as a source for their collective workforces? How can we let our public school teachers face this crisis alone?
In communities throughout the United States, with Indiana but one example, state governments are promoting legislative and executive action to siphon scarce dollars away from urban public school corporations in order to fund voucher programs that will benefit only a select group of families. Advocates of such programs are fond of declaring a commitment to such concepts as “choice” and “competition.”
These declarations are nothing more than a pre-meditated deception. Governor Pence claims to want all students to have a choice. Looking at just FWCS, where can 31,000 students go? Are there sufficient classrooms in our community’s parochial, private, and charter schools to absorb 31,000 students? What about the approximate 5,000 special education students. Do the parochial, private, and charter alternatives have the resources to serve this special population? Extrapolate these numbers to the entire State of Indiana.
The problem is not the existence of charter schools and voucher programs rather that such schools and programs are not balanced by a commitment to fix our public schools.
The truth is that while Indiana offers vouchers to insure “choice” for a few of our state’s one million public school students, the state is stripping our public school corporations of vital resources necessary to serve hundreds of thousands of their students. They are attacking our public school teachers with such ferocity that many are opting to leave the teaching profession at a time when fewer and fewer college students are aspiring to become teachers.
Indiana is challenging public schools to compete effectively against charter schools and other private and parochial alternatives while evidence mounts that charter schools, in particular, are not being held to the same standards. Add the fact that our public schools are expected to serve a disproportionately higher population of special needs students and we are creating a recipe for social disaster.
It harkens back to Governor Romney’s “47 percent” remark during his campaign for the presidency. It seems as if our government has decided that there is nothing they can do to fix the problems in our public schools. So, instead of trying to fix the problems of public education, they have chosen to subsidize those families that are motivated to move their kids to a charter, private or public school and let the public schools and their communities fend for themselves.
For our nation, the long term consequences of such a strategy are staggering. The consequences for our poor and minority students border on criminal.
Where are the protests? Where are the shouts of anger and frustration? Where is the support for our public school teachers and other professionals who labor under such adverse circumstances? Does anyone care?
In my next post, I will begin laying out a challenge to public school parents to take a stand in support of their children, their children’s teachers and schools. I will be laying out a specific challenge to our African-American citizens their leaders and also to the leaders and citizens of the Hispanic and other minority populations.