I was motivated by my friends over at the Education Law Center to do this post. If you’re in Pennsylvania, you need to be following them, really! They are a fantastic group and really looking out for Pennsylvania’s children. I follow them on Facebook and subscribe to their email list. Today I got an email, and I only read the headline when I opened it–“Where’s the vision for improving public schools?”
And it just kinda dawned on me……..yeah, where is it? I’ve been so wrapped up in my own child’s issues (we’re having quite a few lately!) that I have taken my eyes off the big picture. Think about it Pennsylvania…….all the talk you’ve heard about schools, school districts, teachers, administrators……what has ALL the talk been about?
Money, taxes, tax increases, mills, layoffs, program cuts, class size increases, funding cuts, budget cuts, new budgets and so on.
Who is talking about making the schools better? Who is talking about enabling teachers to teach better, to help our kids grasp the concepts, to increase the students’ knowledge?
“In the first six months of 2011, the education policy debates in the state capitol — and there have been plenty — have almost completely disregarded practical ideas for improving teaching and learning at the classroom level.”-Education Law Center
I’m reminded of my days in retail, I used to manage several retail outlets in the area. At certain times, the company would tighten the proverbial belt. The first to go, of course, was payroll hours. I had less payroll to run my store. My sales goals didn’t change, less customers didn’t come in the door, work to be done didn’t mysteriously vanish. The work load stayed the same, I just had fewer resources to get it done. And you know what? I got it done. I was strategic in my planning, made the most of what I had, pulled the team together and we got it done. I didn’t eliminate training for my staff. Good leaders can do this. In fact, during one particular rough bout, we won Store of the Year for the company–an award based on measures like sales and payroll. I didn’t go to the VPs and say “Well, sorry, just can’t open on Sundays anymore, not enough people!” I made it work. Because it was my career and my livelihood and I wanted to do a good job.
So why are we expecting any less from our school administrators and politicians. Get it done. I don’t care that you have less money and less people. Make it work. Be creative, be strategic……..most importantly BE A LEADER.
I spent a few years working in a public school, the waste is amazing. And you can’t tell me that the one little school where I worked was the only one. Find the waste, get rid of it, and focus on what is important.
Vouchers are not the easy way out. “Oh, I’ll just vote yes for the voucher, send my kid to private school, stick my head in the sand and all is well with the world again.” Say no to the vouchers. First, what most middle-class families don’t realize is that chances are, you make too much money and won’t even qualify for a voucher. Second, it will widen the gap between the haves and have-nots, and that’s not good for any district. We need to stick together on this. We’re all in this together, whether you have a school-aged child or not. An educated society benefits everyone.
We need to demand more, and demand better from our districts. Don’t tell me what you can’t do, tell me what you ARE doing to make the school a better place for more kids. And if we’re not getting what we want, we need to take school board elections seriously, just for starters. I’d add letter writing to newspapers and bloggers as well as attending school board meetings and other ways of becoming active in the school system.
And, as special needs parents, we need to work harder to get our message out. If our kids are still receiving services–services that they need, but are perceived by others to be frivolous, we’re going to be resented. It’d be nice to say “It’s not any of your business what my kid is getting” but the real world doesn’t work that way. Take the time to educate other parents; you only have to be as specific as you want to be. But taking a moment to explain why your child receives some of the (very visible) special services that they receive, can do wonders for bridging the gap.
Remember, we’re all in this together–we’re all Moms & Dads first! Child focused!