The Atlantic recently published a story about the bum rap that school privatization advocates continue to give public education. The article, linked below, is well-worth taking the time to read, although I believe the headline misses the boat, which I will explain in a bit.
The story refutes the lies in the privatization narrative, including the falsehoods that traditional public schools don’t perform as well as charters or private schools and that teacher unions protect “bad” teachers.
Author Erika Christakis, a public-school certified teacher, recommends steps that can be taken to improve public schools, including higher teacher pay, forgivable student loans and housing subsidies to enable teachers to afford to live in the increasingly expensive communities in which many public schools are located. Austin ISD immediately comes to mind.
Christakis also urges education policy makers to save and, where necessary, bolster instruction in social studies and civics education. She writes that schools historically have served a key role in “integrating both immigrants and American-born students from a range of backgrounds into one citizenry.”
But now, she adds: “At a moment when our media preferences, political affiliation, and cultural tastes seem wider apart than ever, abandoning this amalgamating function is a bona fide threat to our future.”
The article is headlined: “Americans have given up on public schools. That’s a mistake.”
I think that first sentence is wrong because I don’t believe most Americans have given up on our public schools, despite all the noise to the contrary coming from high places. Betsy DeVos, Dan Patrick and other privatization advocates would like us to think Americans have given up on public education because that would play into their deliberate campaign to under-fund public schools, declare them “failures” and privatize them.
Christakis writes that most parents give high marks to their own children’s schools, and that is important to note, but parents worry about other schools. That’s where the smear campaign being waged by the school privateers is having an overblown effect on public opinion. And that’s why we have to keep fighting the privateers and their lies, even as we continue to advocate for more support for our public schools.