Congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris! How refreshing to hear a President speak of uniting the country and saving America’s democratic institutions.
One of the largest institutions is the public school system, run by local school boards, supported by the states, with oversight and administration by the federal government.
President Biden could reach out to Republicans and Democrats regarding public education by recognizing the greatest threat to democracy involving schools that we have witnessed for years, the corporate influence, and the takeover of the institution itself.
Understanding the stakes of losing this great institution is imperative. Both the Democratic and Republican leadership has been complicit for years in undermining the public’s wishes when it comes to running their schools.
But many of us have renewed hope for public education under a Biden administration. I know Republican and Democratic parents who say they want great public schools for their children.
Here’s the EWA Biden update on education. They left out some stuff essential to the American people.
Some additional issues that resonate with both Republican and Democratic parents and teachers include the following:
Students With Disabilities
The loss of their familiar school environment has been incredibly hard on children with disabilities, and school districts are working to help children learn safely.
In 1975, the All Handicapped Children Act gave families of children with disabilities hope that public schools would be a reality for all children. But Congress has never fully funded the Act. IDEA reauthorizations have pushed children into overcrowded inclusion classrooms.
In some states, administrators have intentionally denied students a free appropriate public education.
Fund IDEA, and parents and teachers should share concerns and work together to provide students with disabilities the best education possible.
Early Childhood Education
Access to early childhood learning centers during the pandemic is a tricky balancing act.
Besides Covid-19, for too long, high-stakes standardized testing has dominated these classes. Children deserve a developmentally appropriate curriculum.
Parents should not have to fight for their children to get recess, but some schools still don’t provide these necessary free breaks for children to recharge. Yet, the research is indisputable that young children thrive through both free play and play-based instruction.
Children also need access to well-prepared teachers who understand early childhood education.
The Biden-Harris administration would be wise to revisit the Perry Preschool Project and confer with Defending the Early Years and the real professionals. They are highly qualified to help determine good early childhood programs for children.
Data Collection and Privacy
Data collection and children becoming data points is a concern for parents. Online assessments that collect personal information about children worry parents. They often have little control over what data is collected and who sees it.
During this pandemic, when students are getting much of their education online, online learning, data collection, and privacy concerns are enormous.
Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood provides essential information about this topic.
Ray Budde and Al Shanker originally envisioned charter schools as being run and managed by teachers. Unfortunately, Educational Management Operations (EMOs) run charter schools, and teachers, some of who aren’t always well-qualified, work for the EMO operators.
Is there any reason these schools can’t be under the oversight of the local school board, much like alternative schools run by real teachers?
School buildings across the country need remodeling; our communities need more funding to build new schools. It’s still fresh that this was a noble initiative of the Obama administration that never went far.
Consider also school facility safety. Schools situated in earthquake zones or places with a probability of tornadoes deserve special consideration and evaluation.
Concerns abound about reading scores on NAEP testing and the notion that children fail in their public schools. But children are also expected to read earlier than ever before! A study from the University of Virginia showed that kindergarten was the new first grade.
Preschool and kindergarten need to return to a more developmentally friendly curriculum.
Also, every school needs school libraries and qualified librarians that help students and teachers. The research shows that children who attend schools with great school libraries do better on tests.
Reading reports cite the flawed National Reading Panel. But this panel is controversial, and the research it reviewed at the time is incomplete. It would be great if this administration brought together reading experts to determine great ways to reach children with this vital subject.
For years there has been an effort to push veteran, qualified teachers out of the classroom. Teach for America, Relay Graduate School of Education, and other groups promote a different kind of teacher, who usually learn on the fast track.
Along with this, some Colleges of Education are cutting back on course offerings or closing altogether, at a time when there’s a teacher shortage.
This country currently has many great teachers, but we cannot replace the teaching profession with novices. Young people interested in a short stint in the classroom can be teacher aides. We must convince our young people how great the teaching profession can be under the right conditions.
Pay for Success
Venture philanthropists make a profit setting up programs that are supposed to help children. There are many ways philanthropists can and should help support America’s public schools without making money on their investments.
Counselors, school psychologists, librarians, and school nurses must support students, teachers, and families. Para-professionals, office staff, bus drivers, and cafeteria managers are also critical for school safety.
Shortages hurt students.
Anyplace, anytime learning is being promoted to replace brick-and-mortar schools. If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the pandemic, it’s that parents want their teachers and public schools.
There’s also an abundance of online programs that are of poor quality but continue to bilk the American taxpayer of dollars, which should go to traditional public schools and teachers.
The National Education Policy Center has a wealth of information on this and many other topics.
Internet connection is still essential for students at home. Technology is an important tool in school and out.
If Americans are to govern their public schools, they must be provided a seat at the table. Parents and educators from both parties don’t want divisiveness and exclusion. They wish to be heard.
Their schools should not be forced due to underfunding, to rely on outside partnerships, nonprofits, or venture philanthropists that undermine that governance process.
These individuals or foundations have every right to support public education. Still, it must be with the community, the families, the teachers, and the students who determine how their democratic public school system should operate.
Those from both parties are not that different when it comes to feeling connected to and wanting their schools to work. Their focus is on the needs of the students in their communities, no matter their political leanings.
They yearn for a participatory government, a democratic public school system that they own. I hope the Biden-Harris administration will honor their wishes.
Paul Bonner says
I agree across the board. I would like to add reinvigorate the Principalship. Principals were the first to lose tenure and job security in this age of disruption. A Principal has to have the autonomy and support around him to make thoughtful decisions on the ground. We are losing principals at a rate similar to that of teachers. Schooling, whether public, private, or charter, will be unsustainable if current circumstances continue.
Nancy Bailey says
Absolutely! A critical role that often isn’t addressed. Thanks, Paul!
I agree as well.
I think we must also insist on smaller class sizes and new buildings added to existing school districts!
I have said for the last 20 years or so, that what public education needs are updated school facilities and smaller class sizes! Give us that and what remains of our profession will excel if teachers and parents are allowed to rule!