Funding for traditional Ohio public schools was the big loser again in the last state budget. Kasich and an army of school reform lobbyists got more charter schools, more reliance on standardized tests, further deregulation to facilitate privatization of our existing public schools and a state-wide expansion of vouchers. A friend is on Michelle Rhee’s lobby shop email list. He has no idea how he got on it. He forwarded an email from Rhee’s Ohio franchise. Here are the reformers celebrating the Ohio budget, a budget that harms every kid who attends a traditional public school:
Ohio has proven itself a national leader when it comes to how we fund our schools. Thanks to the efforts of Governor Kasich, the General Assembly, and StudentsFirst members like you, public school financing will now be fairer and will be linked to real student outcomes.The sweeping legislation that was just signed into law is a huge win for Ohio students, but there is still a lot of work to do to make sure that every child receives an excellent education. We should commend public officials for their hard work and cooperation and encourage them to continue to make important reforms once the legislature is back in session later this summer.Send Governor Kasich and your legislators a note of thanks and encouragement now!By entering your address below, you will be able to send an email directly to your Members of the General Assembly and the Governor. Thank them for their support!
Not surprising to me, this complete disconnect between school reform marketing rhetoric and my local reality of school reform. I have 4 children, 3 are grown and our youngest is 11, so I’ve watched “market based” reform play out in one local school district over the last decade, up close and over time. What school reform means to me is this: funding cuts, encroaching privatization, an insane focus on standardized testing, knee-jerk blaming of local public schools and a complete lack of accountability for the national leaders of the reform “movement”, the same “reformers” who are driving the national agenda and have been driving it for more than a decade. When do traditional public schools benefit from reform? I get that charters and private schools benefit. What about the traditional public schools that 95% of US public school kids actually attend?
What I want is competent stewardship and thoughtful long-term investment in the school system I already had and valued when this “reform” insanity started more than a decade ago. I also want advocates and allies in government who support public schools. Not some abstract, round-table concept of “great schools” but the actual public school my kid attends. That’s what I want. I’m not getting it. I’m getting Milton Friedman’s theories on public schools.
I don’t think I’m alone in this so I was glad to see some polling on it. A labor union commissioned the poll which means it will be dismissed by media and the national reform groups as self interested, but I don’t buy that public school teachers who belong to unions are “self interested” while national reform celebrities and their many, many, many lobbying groups are not. By using this lop-sided credibility metric media and reformers have effectively marginalized anyone who acts as an advocate for a traditional public school system, because we, parents and teachers, support the dreaded “status quo” by supporting our existing school system. I reject that. It’s dumb.
I think about my own work and compare it to what media and national reformers have done to discredit public school teachers and I’m amazed at how misguided and unfair it is. I’m a lawyer and I work some in the juvenile court system. When we have discussions on the juvenile court system here, lawyers and judges who work in the juvenile court system run the show. This, despite the fact that many lawyers bill the county for work (self interested!) and judges are actual public employees (with pensions!) Under the “school reform credibility rubric” lawyers and judges would be dismissed as hacks who seek only to keep their jobs, never mind that we actually work IN juvenile courts, with real live juveniles, every day. I’m here to tell you that would never, ever happen. Judges and lawyers would raise hell. In my darker moments watching this “reform” madness unfold I sometimes wonder if public school teachers are so easily dismissed and marginalized on “school reform” because K-12 public school teachers are 1. middle class and 2. primarily women.
In spite of all the trashing of public schools by media and reformers, you may be shocked to learn that the parents of kids who attend traditional public schools support their local (shudder) “government schools.” Since 95% of US public school kids attend traditional public schools not “choice” schools or the “miracle” charter chains that get all the attention, this polling probably matters if one is interested in the opinions of the not-famous people who use public schools:
*The two biggest problems facing public schools are too much testing and too little funding — both at 32 percent. Third on the list is large class sizes (23 percent), fourth is lack of support for teachers (17 percent) and fifth, poor teacher quality (16 percent).
*Sixty-eight percent of parents are satisfied with their children’s public schools, including 66 percent of parents with children in urban schools and 62 percent of parents with incomes under $50,000.
*Seventy-six percent oppose reduced funding for traditional public schools to increase spending on public charter schools.