The pandemic showed us that public schools are critical. Understandably, Covid-19 has been front and center. But the Biden administration glosses over or is silent on critical school issues. Sometimes these topics are front and center not in a good way in State legislatures or ignored altogether.
Frustrated parents will seek alternatives, and there’s a real risk that public education will be no more.
Where’s the discussion? Here’s a list in alphabetical order. Your suggestions, ideas, or criticisms are welcome.
How many children get access to art, music, drama, even dance in their public schools? We know that when students get the arts, they thrive.
Students artistically inclined who don’t get the arts in their schools will go elsewhere if their parents can afford private school. All students should have a quality arts program.
Why is this still an issue?
The Biden administration mentions the importance of regulating charter schools, but there has been little meaningful discussion about their controversy.
Here, Dr. Carol Burris, a teacher and principal in New York for many years and is now the executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE), asks, “Why Do Charter Schools Get Away with Massive Fraud?”
NPE has many reports authored by Burris and others describing the problems surrounding charter schools.
Many choice advocates will claim that class size doesn’t matter, but those who elect to put their children in private or charter schools often do so for smaller class sizes that they see as offering a personal education.
Curriculum changes often occur without buy-in from teachers or parents. Who’s reviewing the school curriculum?
Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education has changed throughout the years and not for the better.
Micromanaging young children to the detriment of their ability to learn through play and outside activities affects how they will learn in the future.
As reported in The Washington Post, March 2020, Many young children are now going without health insurance.
Without access to good health care, including dental and eye care, how will children learn?
K-12 Alignment to the Workforce
Parents worry about how their child’s data is tracked online and how this will affect their future career and employment opportunities.
How often do students get legitimate free breaks during the school day? A teacher argued for middle school breaks, yet some elementary schools still deny children recess.
Will there be more breaks for students at all levels once in-person schooling returns altogether?
Serious conflict surrounds reading and a “Science of Reading,” leading to online rancor. The last report of the National Reading Panel took place 25 years ago. Educators (especially those who teach reading), parents, and reading specialists, should meet to review the reading programs that school districts currently purchase with great expense to taxpayers.
We understood when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was willing to let school buildings continue to decline to end public education altogether. We have a new President, but is he really focused on school buildings?
School Boards and Partnerships
School boards are supposed to be elected officials responsible to their constituents. Still, for years they’ve signed on with partnerships with wealthy foundations and individuals who have an anti-democratic agenda for public schools.
A recent study by Dr. Stephen Krashen and his colleagues Christy Lao, Sy-Ying and Lee, Jeff McQuillan, describes the importance of school libraries to student success. It shows that children become better readers with access to quality reading material.
So why have school libraries been allowed to disappear in so many schools?
Who’s coming up with school safety solutions? There’ve been so many school shootings now that Education Week has a school shooting tracker. In 2020, even when many schools were closed, there were ten incidents.
Progress towards safer gun laws stagnates, but that doesn’t mean school safety shouldn’t be front and center at every governmental level.
Legislatures in some places make harsh rules about what teachers can and cannot say and do in their classrooms about race and social justice issues. But where are the honest and legitimate discussions about these issues at the Federal, State, and Local levels?
Black Lives Matter, LBGTQ issues, the school to prison pipeline, school resource officers, Dreamers, educational equity for girls, protecting student civil rights, how to teach history, and more are front and center in society.
Most school districts need school counselors, school psychologists, nurses custodians, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and other support staff. A quality support staff is critical to well-functioning schools.
Special education has changed throughout the years. It has never been adequately funded.
Parents often feel alienated. Many witness support for their children dwindle. It’s beyond time to bring Americans together with policymakers to address this critical area.
High-Stakes Standardized Testing
The Biden administration was to have opposed high high-stakes standardized testing. Education Secretary Cardona stated, Not reducing a teacher to a test score and bringing the voices of teachers and leaders into the process of professional learning–those are two things I really felt like I had to champion.
The Every Child Succeeds Act permits such assessment to occur, but the Biden administration could have waived it with the pandemic concerns. And should take steps to revise ESSA.
How much public funding goes to online programs that have repeatedly shown to fail students? Yet, the same programs are reinvented and commercialized as successful. What about privacy issues?
Teacher pay, teacher support, teacher professionalism, qualifications, the quality of online programs, alternative programs, and what university education programs are providing teachers, including the harm of edTPA, are all serious issues that need to be addressed to have a dynamic teaching force in America.
The Biden administration is talking about a teacher pipeline. Where are they planning to find future teachers? America wants to know.
The Biden administration opposes vouchers, but Education Secretary Cardona says little about them. Unregulated school choice plans are aggressively moving forward in many states. The State of Florida is a good example. There’s little public oversight to which schools obtain public funding.
These are some of the issues that continue to go unaddressed that are critical to the functioning of a democratic public school system.
Steve Abney says
Thank you. Great list.
I quibble with the use of “school safety” to be solely about school shooters. That’s the common usage here in Florida, and I disagree here at every opportunity.
The safety and security of students and school personnel is important. Let’s include transportation safety (How are those busses? Are there sidewalks, bike lanes, and marked crosswalks for students who live near the school?), food safety, facility safety (Is there asbestos, mold, or lead?), and safety from peer bullies and adult predators (How good are the background checks on employees? Is there a system of vetting volunteers?)
Nancy Bailey says
Absolutely! I agree. Great additions. Thank you, Steve! You reminded me of this post from a while back.
If you ask these questions in terms of how much money someone can save or make by pursuing a particular “solution,” then you pretty much have the answers. Until public education is recognized as a public good available to all children, the answers to these questions will not serve the public good. Such a shift in focus requires a long term commitment to rethinking how schools are resourced and funded that will be neither easy or fast. I don’t pretend to have the answers or the expertise to participate in these conversations, just the conviction that a democratic process if far preferable to private fiat.
Nancy Bailey says
Yes. I think as usual, many of us were hoping for something better for education from the Biden administration. But your comment is spot on as always. Thanks for sharing.
Rick B says
Twenty years ago, politicians created a public school system that offered parents little more than a “two-subject (math and ELA) curriculum”. This standards based, test-threaten-and-punish model of K to 8 schooling was doubly reinforced under RTTT, NCLB waivers, and the ESSA. Little did we anticipate, but this 21st century model of public schooling was/is remarkably easy to replicate! The privatizers must have drooled in delight when their plan began to unfold: Tens of thousands of” failing” public schools (thanks to bogus test scores) – and a “two subject” model that any rank amateur, edu-meddler could easily (and cheaply) offer an alternative to. And their alternatives were freed from the one promise that made our public school system unique: free education for all! Even the hard to educate and the even harder to manage. Now privatizers could provide schools with safe and orderly learning environments and with success in a test score based, two-subject curriculum! Enter SARS-coV-2 in the early 2020 – and what to their wondering eyes did appear but a privatizers dream come true scenario: the end of public schooling as we knew it with market niches galore! Well Nancy you nailed early in this post: “Frustrated parents will seek alternatives and public school will be no more.”
Nancy Bailey says
Yes! The changes made seem definitely intended to drive parents out. What parent doesn’t want the arts and well-rounded curriculum? I see private schools often advertising for all that public schools have eliminated.
Thank you, Rick.
Roy Turrentine says
Stability: the chief opponent of good education is disruption, an idea that privatizers throw about as a positive. In fact, the instability caused by all the various things you list above is the real enemy of educational success. The kids thrive on knowing that a certain program or person will be there for them. They plan their days in high school around the ability of a certain person with whom they build a relationship. Some of these relationships last lifetimes.
The disruption of under-funding takes teachers out of one school and places them in another. It often closes neighborhood schools, destroying community coherence. The list is endless.
Nancy Bailey says
I think the point you make, Roy, is critical. Thank you.
Disruption became a buzzword in business to shake up organizations. Next, it was applied to schools. But those who know children recognize that that change isn’t always easy. Disruption for schools is about replacing career teachers with tech.
Disrupting Class is the book that describes this plan.