If V.P. Joe Biden is elected, there will be a chance for public education to survive and teachers to get the support they need to serve America’s children. Reelect President Trump, and chances are public schools may end. Teachers who have been prepared to teach may leave the field for good.
Gallup Polls show how American’s attitudes have changed and remained the same when it comes to public schools over the years. Saving education in America depends on creating a professional teaching workforce.
The pandemic has made it clear that the country relies on its teachers to help students learn. Even before Covid-19 parents from both parties realized this. Teachers have risen to the occasion during the pandemic with little help from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos or President Trump.
President Trump and his followers are hostile towards public schooling, teachers, and the teacher’s union. I cannot remember President Trump ever visiting a public school. He has been to a private religious school.
They call public schools “government schools,” but the public owns their schools, or they should. A circle of the president’s supporters embraces President Trump’s and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s choice plan focused on a market approach to schooling.
It hasn’t always been this way, and many still want excellent public schooling and especially excellent teachers for all America’s children.
Revisit the Gallup Polls of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools of the U.S. for 15 years, 1969 through 1983. This is what is written:
Most Americans are deeply committed to the belief that education is the most important service rendered by government. They continue to feel, according to the poll, that public education contributes more to national strength than either industrial might or military power. They consider education the key to personal success. Thus the heavy critical attention being paid to education today may be a blessing in disguise. Education leaders, as represented by the membership of Phi Delta Kappa, can use the basic positive feelings of the American public about the importance of education as an anchor for reform that will produce better education for all (5).
…in 1969 about 75% of parents interviewed said that they would like to see one of their children teach in a public school. In 1983 only 45% said that they would like one of their children to be a public school teacher (p. 3).
This later changed again.
…the prime factor was the surplus of teachers in the Seventies and early Eighties. Parents didn’t want their children to prepare for nonexistent jobs. Other significant factors included the well-publicized economic disadvantages of teaching, the growing prevalence of teacher burnout, and increasingly attractive opportunities for women in other fields (p. 3).
In the more recent September 2020 PDK (Phi Delta Kappan) Public School Priorities in a Political Year, the results reflect the attitudes of public schooling pre-pandemic and pre the Black Lives Matter protests.
Both political parties are concerned about getting qualified teachers to work with students. Creating a great, new teaching workforce is what this country needs at this time!
Joshua P. Starr, Ed.D. Chief executive officer of PDK International wrote:
…85% of respondents said they want the federal government to focus on attracting and retaining quality teachers. In and of itself, this shouldn’t be a surprise. (Who doesn’t want kids to be taught by great teachers?) Given that education is largely a local and state issue, though, the desire for federal involvement is noteworthy. We already know from previous data that the nation may soon face a teacher shortage; hence, we may have a real crisis on our hands if, as is likely, a large number of experienced teachers opt to not return to the classroom (due to concerns about their health or dissatisfaction with remote learning). Perhaps, then, respondents’ desire for the federal government to do something about teacher shortages should serve as a wake-up call for those in Washington who have threatened to reduce financial support on the basis of local decisions about opening up. Americans want them to play a positive role, not a destructive one (K3).
V.P. Biden supports funding better school facilities, more social workers, school psychologists, and Title I programs. His wife has studied education and is a teacher, and Biden supports the unions. He has a plan to create safe schools.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not been about lifting teachers or creating a qualified professional teaching staff.
If we lose public education in America, we will also lose a professional teaching workforce. The next president must improve public schools, not end them, and supported, well-prepared teachers are crucial to making those schools work.
What’s clear is that parents still believe in great teachers. Hopefully, a Biden win will reflect the nation’s support of public schools and a great teaching profession to serve all children.
Paul Bonner says
A robust and supported teaching force is critical no matter one’s political perspective. For over a century strategies for school improvement have been predominantly top down with limited success. The failure of the current standards movement, through its dependance on testing and technology, acts as proof that there is no substitute for qualified teachers. The most significant way to improve public schools is through meaningful teacher training, support mechanisms that provide time for teacher preparation and planning, along with salaries that attract the best candidates. Teaching is not mission work. It is a profession.
Nancy Bailey says
Absolutely! That’s what the PDK polls showed. Everyone agrees. Teach for America treat schools like the Peace Corps. So your point is well-made.
Paul Bonner says
So how do we organize to get this done? As a principal I knew that my students were going to struggle if the teachers could not do their jobs. The ongoing turnover of curricula and instructional mandates put a burden on teachers that has been crippling. Teachers, and principals redefined as head teachers, have got to have the flexibility and time to respond to the needs of the students they teach. I personally believe that articulating public schools as “government schools” is not only a devious way to discredit the teaching profession, but a patently false representation of what public education actually does for markets. We need to convince citizens that have a libertarian view of economic activity that investment in public schools with a strong teaching force is actually the best way to limit government through an informed and productive citizenry. Cutting resources for the classroom, including teachers and school support staff, actually increases individual dependence on government resources. Finland, Singapore et al are successful because the teacher is recognized as the most important cog in education. I resigned from my district as a principal partially because I was hamstrung by the refusal to act based on actual data about how children learn and what teachers need. We need to convince policy makers and representatives at all levels of government that it is in their best interest to build a teaching force through a culture of support.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree, Paul. Very well said. I cringe when I hear the term government school.
Teachers must believe in the programs they teach, be given opportunities to provide study and feedback before they’re expected to implement the program. You understand this. I’m sorry you were hamstrung.
This reminds me that I know parents who are pushing for Orton-Gillingham as a reading program, and they’re critical of their school for not offering it but OG has no research to back it up. That said, parents and teachers who like the program should get their say.
Discussions and debate, including review, should take place at the school and with the school board. If people get the chance to debate they will at least see the evidence and both sides.
Do you have other ideas?
Paul Bonner says
We have to engage at all levels of polity. I am convinced that the libertarian economic perspective could be turned toward Public Education if they could see that broad based individual responsibility and participation is dependent on substantial funding of schools. We need to encourage Universities to value the intellectual diversity that exists throughout the country and not just from the “elite” schools identified by US News and World Report. Policy makers in education have to be made to realize that the failure of the Standards Movement should not cause us to throw up our hands, but awaken us to the importance of supportive school communities for student success. I do enjoy reading your blog and that of Diane Ravitch as well. Somehow we have to convince the powers that be that investing significant resources in teachers is the way to go.
Nancy Bailey says
Well said, Paul. I think many of us agree with your points, and I especially like your reference to the US News and World Report about elite schools. I hope we have evolved better. Now all eyes are on President-elect Biden, hoping he and his advisors recognize the problem with high-stakes standards. Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Roy Turrentine says
Very true, Nancy. It is time for an educational change. We have been watching for twenty years now as the only thing both parties can agree on is my incompetence. A plague on both their houses if we do not do something this time.
Nancy Bailey says
Well, it’s my understanding that the PDK results show that both parties are at least in agreement that great teachers are needed.
Great teachers around the country are showing their mettle at this time, rising to the challenge to teach remotely, online, and to support children and families.
So those who lead from both parties around the country must get with the program.
Good to hear from you, Roy. Hope you’re taking care.