A narrative continues to grow that an unprecedented focus on private school options somehow threatens the institution of American public education.
The word derives from the Latin word publicus, meaning “of the people.” This concept — that the government belongs to the people and the government should provide for the good of the people — was foundational to the world’s nascent democracies. Where once citizens paid taxes to the monarchy in the hope that it would serve the public too, in democracies they paid taxes directly for infrastructure and institutions that benefited society as a whole. The tax dollars of ancient Athenians and Romans built roads and aqueducts, but they also provided free meals to widows whose husbands died in war. “Public” stood not just for how something was financed — with the tax dollars of citizens — but for a communal ownership of institutions and for a society that privileged the common good over individual advancement.
Early on, it was this investment in public institutions that set America apart from other countries. Public hospitals ensured that even the indigent received good medical care — health problems for some could turn into epidemics for us all. Public parks gave access to the great outdoors not just to the wealthy who could retreat to their country estates but to the masses in the nation’s cities. Every state invested in public universities. Public schools became widespread in the 1800s, not to provide an advantage for particular individuals but with the understanding that shuffling the wealthy and working class together (though not black Americans and other racial minorities) would create a common sense of citizenship and national identity, that it would tie together the fates of the haves and the have-nots and that doing so benefited the nation. A sense of the public good was a unifying force because it meant that the rich and the poor, the powerful and the meek, shared the spoils — as well as the burdens — of this messy democracy.
There’s a case to be made, though, that a pluralistic system that gives all families equal access to all types of schools can strengthen — not weaken — American democracy.
A Washington teacher of the year explains how his mom lied to get him into a better school.
The New York Times highlights negative voucher results.
Inside the Catholic school that’s a “beacon of hope” for Native American youth.
Betsy DeVos pledges to protect LGBT students after reports that she broke with other Trump Administration on a rollback of Obama-era civil rights guidance on bathroom access for transgender students. Did Democrats pick the right target among President Trump’s cabinet picks?
A New Orleans charter school fights to remain diverse by setting aside seats for disadvantaged students.
A Boston charter school does battle with the Turkish government.
Teachers at a D.C. charter school push to unionize.
Dallas’ “private school deserts” complicate choice for low-income families.
Education savings accounts have Cristo Rey eyeing Nevada.
Tweet of the Week
Conclusion: Studies should be taken seriously but are not sufficient to abandon efforts to help more low-income kids attend private school.
— Matt Chingos (@chingos) February 25, 2017
Quote of the Week
I hope and pray for a day where our local school districts and school board members see themselves as portfolio managers of education opportunities for kids, and not protectionists of a system that they mistakenly believe they’re here to serve, that’s only about adults and not about children.
– Jason Fischer, Florida school board member turned legislator.
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