Posts Tagged ‘School Board’

Lively debate about how to improve public schools is a good thing. And almost everyone should be heard in the debate. But what about those who would destroy public schools?

Does it seem like an outrageous statement if I say some people want to destroy public education? Consider the experience in one suburban community.

College friends of mine raised two children in a certain suburban town. Both of their children went through the town’s one high school — the son as a football player, the daughter as a prom queen. Some years back members of an Orthodox Jewish sect moved into their town. More followed. The shopping center has changed, not just with Kosher food but also with modest dresses, women’s hats, and religious books. (It could’ve been a similar scenario with Fundamentalist Christians or Muslims.)

All these families send their children to religious schools. Meanwhile the members of this community have become a powerful force at election time. They vote as a bloc, and they all come out to vote. A decade ago this group became the majority on the town’s school board.

Got that? They all send their children to religious schools. But they now control the school board that oversees all the town’s public schools.

Years before the current frenzy to cut budgets, the school board in this town voted to do away with high school sports. No football team, no baseball, no basketball, volleyball, wrestling or swimming. This town had been a mainstay in county league competition. Students who defined themselves by their participation in football (as an example) were suddenly out in the cold.

High school sports programs provide a physical outlet for overactive teens (especially boys); they build student skills at teamwork and leadership; they give students a sense of community and school pride. Sure, we could debate the merits and debate how much money schools should devote to sports. But that wasn’t what happened in this town.

The decision by this town’s school board wasn’t based on what would be best for the school or the kids. It was people with power cutting things they didn’t care about. “Why should we pay if our own children aren’t making use of school sports?”

Extrapolate that slightly and it’s “I don’t have school age children. Why should I pay for schools?”

Simple answer: Because you have to live in the world with these young people. Soon enough they’ll be the adults who share your streets, share your roads, share your workplaces. How can we help as many as possible become educated adults who can function well (and maybe even contribute to) the world?

If the discussion is about improving public schools, those who would rather see public schools collapse have no place at the table.