Vouching for Public Schools

Recently Mitt Romney has decided to promote school vouchers as a way to help fix the “education emergency” we have here in America.

I guess this is ok if his end goal is to get rid of public education.

School vouchers are certificates, issued by the government, that parents can use toward tuition to a private school for their child(ren).  Supporters claim this evens out the playing field and allows economically disadvantaged kids to get into better schools.

What it really does is decrease funding and enrollment in public schools.

Romney’s plan would be that vouchers would help poor and disabled students “flee failing public schools” for a better education. This would reroute a huge chunk of the $48.8 billion the federal government spends on poor and disabled children into the private schools.

He has no plan to improve the “failing public schools” other than to say this would make them want to improve so their money doesn’t go away.

Um, Mitt?  No school wants to be part of a failing school district or system, whether they are losing money or not.

And currently, failing schools ARE losing funding. By taking MORE away, you are not helping them get better.

It’s not that the WANT to be better isn’t there — it’s that the funding isn’t there to help.

The number one reason America has failing schools is due to lack of support–both from the government and the the people living in the public school districts.

And what makes a school ‘failing’ anyway?

Low test scores.

In a survey I did about public schools, over half the respondents claimed that one of the biggest problems in public education is the focus on testing.  Yet, if schools don’t continue to improve their test scores year after year, they are deemed a “failing school”.

I don’t care how great a school’s reputation is, the minute it is labeled as “failing”, it loses the support of the community along with the financial support of the government.

I work in a district in which we went from being a high-achieving school to failing in about seven years. It wasn’t because of anything the teachers or administration was or was not doing, it was due to a change in clientele.

The community where my school is located used to be highly blue-collar working class. There were at LEAST three major, national manufacturing plants (most related to the auto industry — remember, I’m in Michigan).

Due to the economy, one by one, each closed.

The face of our community is 100% different now. We have many unemployed parents. We have many single parents. We have an incredibly diverse student body. And we have an incredible number of “at-risk” students.

Many of our kids are not read to. Many of our kids are a product of teen pregnancy. Many of our kids have suffered some form of abuse or neglect.

Over 70% of our population receives free/reduced lunch.

Our scores plummeted. Why?  Well when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or whether your dad will be coming home sober…or at all…you really don’t care about homework or a spelling test.

We were in danger of being taken over if we continued to fail, and wouldn’t you know it, parents started moving out of district, people started using school of choice to get their kids in the “better” districts near us, and the community started voting down mils to improve technology and other things.

Our staff has done GREAT things and made HUGE leaps since our failing status and are now making Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) each year.

We worked with what we had.

We volunteered our time.

It’s difficult for us to continue to improve though because we have been stuck with this label of failure. We are very quickly approaching a plateau that will be impossible to leap from without support.

If Mitt has his way, parents will be pulling their students out of schools like mine and sending them to the private schools.  We would not only lose thousands in funding, but it would destroy any community support we have. It would give everyone a free pass to just “get out” instead of “get better.”

And then what?

How do we recover from that?

We don’t.

Instead of giving that money to poor and disabled kids to go to a private school, how about putting that back into their home and public school to improve their education there?

How about creating community-building programs for families and public schools to work together for the success of ALL students?

How about backing a system that will improve the failing schools by giving them MORE funds and more support?