Yesterday, educators across the country participated in “A Day of Action,” a series of events across the country that, according to Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post, “sponsors hope will draw national attention to the problems of corporate-influenced school reform and to build a national movement to change the public education conversation and to increase funding for schools.”
We can set aside the fact that organizers were hoping to accomplish an incredible number of goals from a series of public demonstrations. And we will forget what Eduflack has written here previously, that too many people are fighting a false battle against the “privatization” of our public schools, when no one is actually looking to flip public schools private.
And I’m even willing to save for another day the important discussion on school funding. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that we need to look at our funding models for our public schools, ensuring that all schools are equitably funded. But we also must look at how we are spending those dollars, and admit that our priorities are off when some of our lowest-performing schools are also those with some of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the nation.
Instead, today Eduflack turns your attention to the guiding “principles” behind “A Day of Action.” Organizers are absolutely right in needing a call to action, a basis that all participants can latch on to and believe in. So for this week’s festivities, seven principles were offered in an effort to “reclaim the promise of public education.”
* Public schools are public institutions.
* Our voices matter.
* Strong public schools create strong communities.
* Assessments should be used to improve instruction.
* Quality teaching must be delivered by committed, respected and supported educators.
* Schools must be welcoming and respectful places for all.
* Our schools must be fully funded for success and equity.
All noble goals. All well meaning. And all principles that EVERYONE should be able to get behind. I recognize the importance of trying to win over hearts and minds. But these same principles (maybe with an edit to the final one) are principles that any education reformer worth his or her salt could get behind.
Just think of the following:
* Public schools, including our public charter schools, are public institutions.
* Our voices (not just those of the unions or veteran educators) matter.
* Strong public schools create strong communities. Just ask those whose lives and neighborhoods have been transformed by an institution like Democracy Prep.
* Assessments should be used to improve instruction, with test scores utilized to ensure our schools, our teachers, and our students are achieving.
* Quality teaching must be delivered by committed, respected and supported educators. It isn’t what ed school you attended or that you received the proper pedagogy in your prep, it is about what you do in the classroom.
* Schools must be welcoming and respectful places for all. That includes parents and community members who seek improvement or choice.
* Our schools must be fully funded for success and equity. That begins by ensuring all public schools, including charters, in the same city are spending the same per pupil.
There is no question we are in need of a day, a week, a month, a year of action to improve our public schools. And while I still maintain that sides agree on far more than they disagree when it comes to school improvement, can’t we have a real, respectful conversation about the areas of disagreement instead of trying to “own” some basic platitudes on which we all should agree?