"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Random Quotes – July, 2016


Contrary to many "reformers," I believe that:
Unlike many "reformers" I have actually spent time working as a professional educator in public schools (from 1976 through 2010, and then as a volunteer through 2016).

Public education in America can improve, but the "test and punish" methods of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top is not the way to do it. Public schools, and public school teachers, need support, not derision.

The number one problem facing public education in the United States is the fact that more than half of America's public school students live in poverty. We have one of the highest levels of child poverty of any advanced nation on Earth. Solving the poverty problem would go a long way towards ending low student achievement.

From Stephen Krashen

Forget fancy evaluation schemes
Forget fancy evaluation schemes. Work on the cause, not the effect: feed the animal, don't waste time and money designing fancier ways of weighing it.

Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Cannot Really Be Measured

From Stu Egan
...you cannot simply measure students and teachers by numbers and random variables. You measure them by their personal success and growth, and much of that cannot be ascertained by impersonal assessments.

Nor can a teacher’s effectiveness truly be measured by “student achievement”. There is more, so much more, working within the student/teacher dynamic.

From Russ Walsh

Don't Look Behind the Curtain: The Education Reform Switcheroo
...the true motivation of corporate education reform: to try to get people to focus on schools as the problem, so that they won't look behind the curtain at the real problem facing the country - income inequity.

America's Not-So-Broken Education System

From Jack Schneider in The Atlantic
Can the schools do more to realize national ideals around equity and inclusion? Without question. But none of these aims will be achieved by ripping the system apart. That’s a ruinous fiction. The struggle to create great schools for all young people demands swift justice and steady effort, not melodrama and magical thinking.

More on Income Inequality by John Oliver from Last Week Tonight (Warning: NSFW!)


The poisoning of America's (poor) children continues...

From Mike Klonsky

Wishing I could disrupt a conversation about lead in the water
Wait! You mean that all those tens of thousands of Chicago children who have been drinking leaded water from school drinking fountains and home sinks -- mostly poor and children of color -- have been disadvantaged by high-stakes PARCC and ISAT testing? Held back from promotion and graduation? College entrance? Their schools facing loss of funding or even closure because of lower test scores in comparison to wealthier, newer schools? Their teachers having their evaluations lowered and merit-pay-based salaries diminished, in large part because their students are exposed to leaded water?

And to top it off, told "no excuses" when they object?
Lead Exposure in Children


Indiana's Governor, Mike ("smoking doesn't kill") Pence, has been blatantly favoring private and privately owned charter schools since his election in 2012. Now that he, along with his supermajority legislature, and his personally appointed state Board of Education, has done what he can to destroy public education in Indiana, he's ready to move on to bigger and better things. Indiana's gain is the nation's loss.

How Gov. Mike Pence worked to undermine the will of Indiana’s voters

From the Glenda Ritz Campaign
“Indiana’s teachers, parents and students can rest a little easier knowing that Mike Pence will now be absent from Indiana and soon be unable to force his political agenda on our classrooms,” said Annie Mansfield, campaign manager.

“In his time as Governor, Mike Pence has consistently put politics before Hoosier students. He created a duplicate education agency through executive order. He turned down tens of millions of dollars in desperately needed pre-K funding because of his extreme political ideology. And he removed the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction as Chair of the State Board of Education, disenfranchising 1.3 million Hoosier voters.

Sing a song of Trumpence

From Fred Klonsky


Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 Medley #19

Public Schools, Politics, 
Priorities: Libraries or Tests,
Trauma, Read-Aloud, Poverty


'Bailing out' schools

The "business model" of education is so pervasive among "reformers" that they are taking to using terms inappropriate to a public service like public education.

In Chicago, the Mayor's office refers to the needed funding for the city schools as a "bailout." It's as if regular and sufficient funding of public education was not the responsibility of the city...and the "education industry" needed to be "bailed out" of their fiscal problems. Keep in mind that, in Chicago, the mayor appoints the members of the school board who run the schools. If there is fiscal mismanagement, whose fault is it?

The truth is that, if there is a problem with the funding of the schools in a locality it's the fault of the city or state responsible for that funding. Illinois, like most states in the US, has a constitution that calls for the funding of a system of "common schools" for the purpose of educating the state's children. When the legislature fails to fund those schools it's their fault...not the fault of the schools.
They've obviously gone from viewing public schools as beggars to outright criminals. As in -- Let's not let these dangerous public institutions back out on the street where they can steal again from the city's most wealthy tax dodgers.


BREAKING NEWS – Trump goes with anti-public education running mate

We don't yet know how a Hillary Clinton administration would treat public education. As president she could easily follow the Bush/Obama plan of encouraging charters and over-testing. The Democratic party has come down on charters in its platform, much to the chagrin of the DFER crowd, but that doesn't mean that Clinton will follow the platform.

On the other hand, we know exactly where Trump stands on public schools. There are three basic points to his K-12 policy (if you can call it a policy
  • locally controlled
  • no common core ("A total disaster")
  • spend more money than anyone and we're rated 28th
Those "points" are either vague or incorrect, but that was where Trump stood on education until recently when he chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. We know Pence's education platform: privatize through charters and vouchers, test children till they drop, and destroy the teaching profession (for more information click here - PENCE).
As Indiana’s governor, Pence has driven an anti-teacher, anti-public education political and legislative agenda that has included dramatically expanding charter schools and diverting scarce public funds to voucher programs that, in turn, have allowed private individuals to use taxpayer money to send their children to religious schools.


Far more $ for tests than for libraries

There's no name associated with this post, but my guess is that it's from Stephen Krashen.

Not only do we spend more on testing than on school libraries, there are public schools across the nation with no school library at all. You can be sure that even those schools find the money to test their students annually. I am also fairly sure that individual teachers spend their own money to stock their classroom libraries.
School libraries: About $10 per student = $500 million SLJ’s 2014 Spending Survey: Savvy Librarians Are Doing More with Less

Data from 2011, 2012: I could not find more recent data.
Testing: Estimates range from 1.7 billion (J. Chingos, Brookings Institution, 2012) to 25 billion (Five reasons standardized testing isn’t likely to let up)

Add to this: test prep paid by parents: 13 billion/ (A 21st century boondoogle: high tech testing)


Teaching Traumatized Kids

Students are not widgets. Their environment has an impact on their physical and emotional health, as well as their achievement.
Neuroscience tells us that the brains of kids regularly facing significant trauma or toxic stress are wired for survival and likely to erupt at the smallest provocation. A major study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente found that the higher a young person’s ACEs score, the greater the risk in adulthood of chronic disease, mental illness, and premature death. These children also have a far greater future likelihood of either inflicting or being the victim of violence.


Read to them…just because…

We know reading aloud to children is important. It is the single most important activity a parent or teacher can do to help children succeed in reading.
Read alouds matter. They create opportunities for a vibrant tapestry of rich classroom discussions. They provide pathways to broader thinking and reflection about the world. The empirical research about the benefits of read aloud is abundant, but there is “heart evidence” too. Books touch our students’ hearts and minds.

Read alouds open up opportunities for gaining new perspectives or different appreciations in ways that only beautiful literature can. Teachers read aloud… because…“Strong young minds continue to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who send their books out into the world like ships on the sea. Books give a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” (Matilda by Roald Dahl)


Two more from Stephen Krashen...he repeats his point again and again, whenever he can get someone to print his letters or on his own blog...

Lift kids out of poverty before expecting higher test scores
Instead of spending billions on unnecessary testing, let's invest in protecting children from the impact of poverty by expanding and improving food programs, improving healthcare and building better libraries in high-poverty areas. The best teaching in the world has little effect when children are hungry, sick and have little access to reading material.

Education: The real problem
Instead of spreading rumors, let's make sure our students are protected from the negative impact of poverty: let's push for better food programs, more school nurses, and well-supported school libraries.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Pence: A Negative Impact

A guest post from an anonymous Indiana public school teacher.

I’m a Hoosier with conservative values. I’m pro-life and my faith in Jesus Christ guides my decisions. But I’m not a supporter of Pence.

I’m an educator, and most Indiana educators will tell you that they, too, do not support Mike Pence. It’s one of the reasons his re-election as governor was shaky before he became the choice for Trump’s VP.

Most Americans and non-teaching Hoosiers haven’t had an opinion about Pence until he signed a bill which got the attention of the LGBT community. Because it brought bad publicity during an election year, Pence rescinded on the bill.

What the general public doesn’t know about Pence is that he and Indiana Republicans have been bedfellows with the American Legislative Exchange Council and Pearson. Together, behind closed doors, these lawmakers and corporation giants have decided which education laws will be passed each term. They’ve found a way for school funds to benefit them through vouchers, testing, teacher qualifications, and the privatization of public schools.

Pence supports corporate greed over the good of children and local communities. I’m not sure how this will make American great again.

In Indiana, Pence’s education policies have negatively impacted every aspect of education. While Mitch Daniel’s administration made sweeping changes by introducing vouchers, state-mandated teacher evaluations, salary caps, and high stakes testing, Mike Pence continued the excessive executive power, disregard of law, and hostile aggression towards educators.

Mr. Pence devalued the teaching profession by lowering requirements for qualified teachers and establishing Pearson created competency testing. He legislated how teachers are evaluated and paid, resulting in high-stakes evaluations and minuscule performance pay.

Teachers in Indiana are leaving the classroom in masses. The stress is too high and they are underpaid. Because there’s now a teacher shortage, Pence and Republican lawmakers spent time and money to study the reasons why.

In the 2012 election, the residents of Indiana voted for Democrat Glenda Ritz to be Superintendent of Public Education. It was the outcry against the Daniels/Tony Bennett administration. In response, Pence used executive power to develop his own education committee that would be at odds with the Department of Education. He also removed the Superintendent of Public Education as the chairman of the State Board of Education.

During his four years, Pence planned to create a public news media that would report the news from his administration he wanted the public to hear. Bold power and control efforts from a man labeled by outsiders as meek and mild.

As an educator, I’ve been demoralized at the lack of respect he’s shown me, my colleagues, and the children we serve. Last year, I spoke to an appointee of Pence’s to advocate for discouraged teachers and kids who are negatively affected by standardized testing. In turn, I learned that money is what speaks, and if you speak against those in power, you get black-listed and libeled by the media.

People outside of education don’t think this isn’t a big deal. It is a big deal, because when leaders let money determine what’s best for kids, then integrity always has a price.

Education with political strings attached affects every community.

In Indiana, small, rural schools are shutting down because funding has been cut, families are moving out of district, and whole communities are losing jobs where school corporations are the largest employers.

Inner-city schools, like Indianapolis Public Schools, are urban nightmares as charter schools take away public school funding, yet only meet the needs of a fraction of the population.

Cities like Indy, Detroit, and Chicago are the poster-children for big government in education. The corporate rich and politicians get the money, and the urban poor, of which have a racial bias, receive a sub-standard education.

This is what Pence brings to the Republican Party ticket if he follows the path he’s paved in Indiana. If you don’t think education effects all parts of society, then education has benefitted you. If you know what the school-to prison pipeline is, then I don’t need to explain anymore.

The only presidential candidate that will make American great again is the one who invests in and supports public education for all children. He or she is the one that honors the teaching profession, who doesn’t deal with corporate interest in education, and returns the control of schools to local communities.

Pence hasn’t done this for Indiana. The candidate who values these things is one who cares about kids, community, and isn’t bought by corporate America.

An Anonymous Teacher, 2016


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Thoughts on Tribalism and Self-Destruction


I've promised myself that I would not allow myself to age into one of those old men who said things like, "those kids, today," and "the world is going to hell in a handbasket." I don't want to be someone who sits and complains about the modern world.

It's true that people have always hated, feared, and killed each other, and people in America have killed each other with guns since the European "explorers" slaughtered the natives; Since America declared its "Manifest Destiny." The Long Branch Saloon and the OK Corral in the 1880s are as much a part of our nation's violent history as the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War.

I'm not talking about international wars. I'm talking about our penchant for killing ourselves – our own countrymen. It's been going on since we arrived on the continent and we haven't matured much since then. It was just as bad in the past.

On the other hand, our self-destruction in the past was accomplished with knives, swords, muskets, six-shooters and shotguns. Technologically, things were safer back then. If you wanted to kill a large number of people (i.e. more than one) you had to reload giving others a chance to stop you before you did too much damage. Today, on the other hand, mass murder is lightning quick and much deadlier.

The paranoid right in America is fanatical about the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" to the point where the first sentence of the Second Amendment is forgotten or rationalized away. We have the right to the latest in weaponry, they say, because the Declaration obliges us to overthrow the government when it becomes destructive.

In the last week seven people died public deaths. Two because they were black and in the wrong place at the wrong time and five because they were "the government." I should add that these seven were just the nationally publicized killings. There were, of course, others that weren't important enough for the national news to report.

Sadly, not one of the killings over the last few days is the least bit surprising.

Tragic. Yes.

Traumatizing. Yes.

But not surprising.


And neither are the voices of hate and fear which have risen in the aftermath (see HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).

Hate in America has never been buried too far beneath the veneer of polite-civilization. It's been oozing its way out of the dark recesses of the nation's fear since we Europeans landed on our shores carrying our racial and religious bigotry with us. We're quick to try to bury it again when it shows up, but it's relentless. In the last decade...with the election of the nation's first African-American president...and with the rise to prominence of a man giving that hate a supportive voice...it has flowed openly throughout the nation.

Perhaps it's a human characteristic that we're just not able to eliminate yet...the hatred borne from the fear of the "other." Humans have always been tribal – us against them. We should be civilized enough to let it go, but perhaps it's just too inbred for us to escape its destructive force.

If we can't rein in voices of hate and fear...if we can't overcome the urge to want to kill anyone who is the "other"...if we can't retake our civilization from those who are reacting from the reptilian brain...then the destruction of our civilization will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One expression of hope was from the man who has been subjected to much of the hate over the last 8 years.
CNN Breaking News

Frankly acknowledging a "tough week" in the United States after tense days of shootings and racial tensions, President Barack Obama said Saturday that he did not believe the United States was "as divided as some have suggested."

"As painful as this week has been, I firmly believe that America is not as divided as some have suggested," Obama said during a NATO news conference in Poland.

"Americans of all races and all backgrounds are rightly outraged by the inexcusable attacks on police, whether it's in Dallas or anywhere else. That includes protesters, that includes family members who have grave concerns about police misconduct, and they've said this is unacceptable. There's no division there."
There are reasons to hope. There are good people among us who want to stop the constant killing. We just have to be stronger, louder, and more persistent than those who are uncivilized.


This Is Why I Hate Politics
The trouble is that emotions trump reason in matters of moral indignation. The reptilian response, based on emotion, overpowers intellect most every time. Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt likens this dilemma to that of a little man (reason) strapped to the back of an elephant (emotion) and trying to control the bipolar pachyderm with a stick. This hardly ever works, the elephant wins, then we make up stories to rationalize why we act out in emotional ways. That is our human condition. We’re hard-wired for kneejerk moral responses - gut reactions, mindless outrage - leaving the little man kicking his legs and helpless to stop the beast from stampeding. We’re screaming before we realize we’re mad. Buttons we didn’t install get pushed and trounce us with their passionate intensity.

Politics is hateful because it preys on two demons: moral outrage and the lust for power. Most politicians go into the business for mostly good reasons, I’m sure, but the show must go on and their worthy intentions are compromised by the push for success because politics is a business first. It runs on the principles of business. Crushing. Maneuvering. Dissembling. Deceiving. And WINNING at most any cost (remove that word from the lexicon, and Donald Trump would collapse like a house of cards). With so much money in the system, the game has of course only grown more obscene.

So this is how we solve problems now
We’ve brought up a whole generation of people who think the appropriate response to problems is to bring out a gun and shoot them…and the bigger the problem the bigger the gun. We’re dealing with racism by shooting black people, dealing with trigger-happy cops by shooting random police officers, and presiding over it all, the gleeful NRA.

The Governing Cancer of Our Time
This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Politics is in retreat and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist. It’s taking pleasure in that difference and hammering out workable arrangements.

The 239 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List

From the New York Times
Since declaring his candidacy for president last June, Donald Trump has used Twitter to lob insults at presidential candidates, journalists, news organizations, nations, a Neil Young song and even a lectern in the Oval Office. We know this because we’ve read, tagged and quoted them all.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

2016 Medley #18: On Teachers and Teaching

On Teachers and Teaching


Anyone can teach, right? We all went to school, after all, and watched it being done. There's nothing to it.

Years ago I had a first grade student whose father epitomized this attitude in two separate instances.

First, I was told by this man that if his child didn't understand something I should just tell her what I wanted her to know. Just tell her and then she'll know it.

Second, I was explaining why his daughter, as a first grader, was not expected to spell every word she wrote correctly. I talked about "invented spelling" and explained why it was an important step in the development of reading and spelling. This was unacceptable. His child was going to spell correctly from day one. Apparently all my years of experienve in the classroom, a Masters degree in elementary education, and a specialization in Reading didn't really mean I knew what I was talking about.

Why is it that the profession of "teacher" is something people assume is easy? Most people don't assume they know how to build a building just because they might live or work in one. Police officers don't assume that they can build bridges. Attorneys don't assume they know how to do surgery. Doctors don't practice law. Electricians don't design skyscrapers.

Yet, politicians, TFA recruiters, other "reformers," and many general citizens assume that they know all about teaching just because. Gordon Hendry, a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, once...
compared the process a new teacher would follow under the career specialist license to the work of young law students, who often deal with clients and complete legal work before passing the state bar exam under supervision from experienced lawyers.
Hendry wanted to allow anyone with content knowledge into Indiana's classrooms. His comparison of teaching to law showed his ignorance about teaching internships and student teaching.

Now, in Indiana, REPA III allows anyone with a college degree to teach high school in their major area with certain restrictions such as grade point average and years of experience in their field. They need no pedagogical training to walk into a classroom on the first day of a school year and start teaching. Just as our obsession with testing assumes that knowing facts is everything, in teaching all that matters to these folks is the content.

That's wrong and it shows the ignorance and inexperience of those who are making education policy for our public schools.

The Dangers of Eliminating Teacher Preparation

Nancy Bailey provides a "reality check" for those who are interested in education. Don't just assume that, because you spent your childhood and youth in a classroom that you know how to teach. You don't learn a skill just by watching – real teachers understand that. That's why good teacher preparation programs insist that their students spend hours and hours with real children in real classroom settings.

In the excerpt below, Bailey explains a little about child development. That's just one area where teachers know more than "reformers."
Child Development

Unless teachers understand appropriate milestones, or steps for each age and developmental level including middle and high school, children will become frustrated. We already see problems with school reform that places an unreasonable burden on children in the early years.

Increasingly, despite pleas for restraint by child specialists, very young children are being pushed to learn more before they are developmentally ready.

Good teacher education includes serious study about timing for appropriate instruction according to where the child is developmentally.


"Reformers" might claim that there are too many "bad" teachers...and the teachers unions are only there to protect them. The "reformers" are only trying to help the children by busting the union and getting rid of teachers who cost too much money the "bad" ones.

Turns out that this is also something that the "reformers" and the general public think they know, but is actually untrue. In fact, the presence of teachers unions increases the quality of the teachers. Who would have thought that good teachers want to work in places where they have job protections and higher salaries – go figure.

The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers: Evidence from the District-Teacher Matched Panel Data on Teacher Turnover
The data confirms that, compared to districts with weak unionism, districts with strong unionism dismiss more low-quality teachers and retain more high-quality teachers. The empirical analysis shows that this dynamic of teacher turnover in highly unionized districts raises average teacher quality and improves student achievement.


Education "reform," led by people who know nothing about teaching, and funded by the "billionaire boys club" who think that money equals knowledge, has driven good teachers away from public education.

Why do teachers end their careers early? People change or leave careers for myriad reasons, but when it comes to education "reform," teachers leave because...

Commentary: Why One First Grade Teacher Is Saying Goodbye
I guess the big-picture problem is that all this stuff we’re talking about here is coming from on top, from above, be it the federal government, the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the school administration. But the voices of teachers are lost. I mean, nobody talks to teachers. Or, if they do talk to teachers, they're not listening to teachers.

And that's, I think, the frustration — that this stuff just comes down, and we sit with each other: "Well, who thought of this?" or "Why do they think this is a good idea?" It's kind of like "Why not come and talk with us first?" We actually are professionals who work with kids. We want what's best for kids. We know what works. We know what doesn't work.
When you make a profession unattractive people won't want to do it. They'll leave when they realize what it's like, or they'll just never go into teaching to begin with.


Without the slightest hint of irony, legislators in Indiana claimed not to understand why there's a teacher shortage. So the legislature established a panel to examine the causes of the shortage and come up with some solutions.

Last October the legislature had an "open meeting" in which citizens and experts were allowed to voice their opinions about the teacher shortage. "Experts" (from the Friedman Foundation and other privatizer organizations) testified that there was no shortage. Supporters of public education reminded the legislators that the shortage, which did exist, was of their own creation (See the reports from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education – Monroe County, HERE, HERE, and HERE).

Educators devise eight solutions for Indiana's teacher shortage

The panel charged with creating solutions to the teacher shortage returned the following ideas...some of which are in direct opposition to "reform" [emphasis added].
  • Establish ongoing state funding for a flexible, locally designed mentoring program for new teachers and teachers new to a particular school corporation.
  • Create and implement a multimedia marketing campaign promoting the teaching profession.
  • Allow for locally developed teacher pay models that provide for regular salary increases and reward advanced degrees.
  • Reduce the number of standardized tests by promoting teacher-constructed student assessment models.
  • Provide more scholarships and financial aid to college students considering a teaching career.
  • Improve collaboration between schools and teacher preparation programs so potential educators have as much classroom experience as possible before they begin working.
  • Enhance on-the-job professional development opportunities for current teachers.
  • Re-imagine teacher career pathways and pay to enable teachers to take on school leadership roles and still remain in the classroom.


The real problem isn’t teachers

Teachers and public schools can't solve the problems of poverty, inequity, and racism alone. Starving the public schools by diverting tax dollars to charter schools or to private schools through vouchers won't change anything. Policy makers have to stand up and accept their responsibility for the economic conditions in which children grow up and in which the nation's public schools are required to operate.
One, how much responsibility for unequal education can be reasonably laid at the feet of public schools and teachers — and how much belongs to the broader community for failing to dismantle persistent and durable barriers to equal opportunity such as poverty, systemic racism and income inequality?

Two, is the way we currently measure teacher quality helpful, or even accurate?

...For example, access to a good education is not going to make up for the fact that mom and dad lack jobs or that their full-time jobs do not pay enough to keep the family clothed, housed, healthy, and fed. The highest-quality teachers in the world do not have the power to lift an individual student out of poverty if the country’s system of wealth distribution is rigged against her. Teachers and public schools are not equipped to end the systemic racism that underlies the fact that five times more young black men are shot dead by U.S. police than young white men and that one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. There are some problems in the community that cannot be surmounted by education alone, yet education and teachers are persistently portrayed as a panacea for all of society’s ills.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Public Education: Born on the Fourth of July

This post is from July 4, 2013. I've updated it to reflect the current year and made a few other minor changes.
"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

The quote above from John Adams, who began his adult life as a school teacher in Massachusetts, is a clear indication of his belief in the importance of a public education system which would educate everyone...by "the whole people" for the benefit of "the whole people." He also specifically declares that it is to be done at public expense -- public funding for public schools.

On the 240th anniversary of the declaration of our nation's independence it's worth noting that public education is not something new. It's one of the basic foundational institutions of our democracy supported by the authors of the nation.

Adams himself was well educated and cared about public education. He made two assertions which would likely dismay "reformers" in their quest to privatize public education. First, as the quote above makes clear...
...the federal government has a clear responsibility for education that includes paying for it.
That a primary purpose of education is to “raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.”
The public pays for it. The public supports it. The purpose is to equalize the education of the citizenry.


The education of the citizenry was so important that even Adams' political rival, Thomas Jefferson, declared in his 1806 State of the Union address that the government should support public education.
...a public institution can alone supply those sciences which though rarely called for are yet necessary to complete the circle, all the parts of which contribute to the improvement of the country and some of them to its preservation.
Jefferson proposed a constitutional amendment to fund public education. When that never materialized he directed his attention...
...to his beloved state of Virginia. He developed a comprehensive plan for education which encompassed elementary, secondary, and university levels.

Jefferson believed the elementary school was more important than the university in the plan because, as he said, it was "safer to have the whole people respectfully enlightened than a few in a high state of science and many in ignorance as in Europe" (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 241). He had six objectives for primary education to bring about this enlightenment and which highlighted what he hoped would make every person into a productive and informed voter:
  1. "To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
  2. To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing;
  3. To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
  4. To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
  5. To know his rights; to exercize with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
  6. And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed." (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 239)
Adams and Jefferson, so often on opposite sides of political arguments, were in accord when it came to supporting public education. The nation needed a publicly funded school system which would educate all. Public education was an institution necessary for the maintenance of our democracy.


Five years ago Peggy Zugibe, a school board member from New York, wrote...
In the 1800s, when our country took in more immigrants and it became more diverse, education reformers saw public education as a means of creating productive citizens, ending poverty and crime and unifying an increasingly diverse population. Those societal goals are as relevant today as they were then.
Those goals are as relevant in 2016 as they were in 2011.

She referred to a publication by the Center on Educational Policy titled Why We Still Need Public Schools.

The publication asserts that public education is expected to...
fulfill certain public missions that go beyond the purely academic purposes of all schools, public and private.

These public missions can be characterized by six main themes:
  1. To provide universal access to free education
  2. To guarantee equal opportunities for all children
  3. To unify a diverse population
  4. To prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society
  5. To prepare people to become economically self-sufficient
  6. To improve social conditions
Those six missions of public education are as important now as they have been at any time during our nation's history. Channeling public funds to privately run charters, or to parochial and other private schools through vouchers is not the way to support public education.


Public schools, supported by public dollars, accept all children. If a charter or private school cannot provide for a wheelchair-bound child's physical needs the child returns to a public school. If a charter or private school cannot provide for the needs of a child with special academic needs the child returns to a public school. Public schools must provide for all children...those with special needs, those of average ability, those who have no home, those who are hungry, and those whose language skills are inadequate to communicate.

We don't improve our democracy by redirecting public dollars to private and charter schools, many of which do not accept all children.

We need to improve our public schools so they are equipped to provide services to every child by
  • lowering class sizes.
  • providing a well rounded, rich curriculum including the arts, civics and physical education.
  • providing resources including a fully stocked library/media center with qualified librarians.
  • providing social support including qualified counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
  • addressing inequities which enrich schools for the wealthy while providing scant resources for schools in high poverty areas.
  • providing developmentally appropriate education (not test driven) beginning in pre-school.
  • respecting and developing professional educators who are paid at comparable rates as others with their education and experience, who have time to adequately plan lessons and collaborate with colleagues, and who are provided with relevant, high quality professional development.
  • providing appropriate services to all students with special physical, academic and language needs as required by the law.
  • providing facilities that are well-maintained and show respect for those who work and go to school there.
  • engaging parents to fully participate in their child's education.
  • fully funding public schools.
We need to fix our public schools...not close them. On that, I think Adams and Jefferson would agree.