I’m not a performer. It’s not a path that particularly interested me, even throughout my training as a musician. I always wanted to be a teacher. I like directing. I enjoy bringing big projects to fruition and seeing my students steal the show. I like music and love people. That doesn’t mean I can’t perform on occasion when asked.

(You don’t know how uncomfortable it make me to post this.)

When people ask me, “where’d you learn to sing like that?”, my response is something along the lines of, “from the excellent teachers in my entirely public school education.”

Public schools work, folks. I’m living, breathing proof.

I’m the fourth of five children, all public school educated. My four siblings and I were among the top of our high school graduating classes. My brother was among 12 valedictorians in a class of nearly 1,000! Two of us were selected to the district gifted program for elementary students, which required testing in the top 3% nationally on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in the third grade. In my first attempt during my junior year of high school, I tied my brother’s composite ACT score of 30. In my next two attempts, I scored 31, including a perfect score in the reading section. This was enough for a full academic scholarship to SWOSU, where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In fact, all five of us earned college scholarships, and all five of us have bachelor’s degrees. Three of us hold master’s degrees. Among us are: academic all-staters, basketball all-stater, soccer all-stater, vocal music all-stater, National Honor Society members, honor graduates and valedictorians, Masonic award-winners, FBLA officers, STUCO officers, Science Fair winners, and I could go on, but you get the point.

Public schools work.

My father was public school educated. The son of a teacher and coach, my father grew up valuing education and work ethic. My grandfather and all three of his sisters held master’s degrees.   This was quite the feat for anybody in the 1930’s, and certainly an uncommon accomplishment for women.

Public schools work.

My mother started school in a two-room school-house (one step up from a one-room school-house). There was no kindergarten then, so 1st-12th grades was enough to prepare her for college. She earned her teaching degree at K-State, a public university, where she became the first college graduate in her family.

Public schools work.

Yes, having invested parents who valued education and supported school efforts certainly helped. Having remarkable teachers helped, too. And I was not raised in wealthy schools. My elementary was among the lowest socio-economic status schools in the district at the time. My junior high was also the lowest, and in a building falling in on itself while we failed two bond issues in a row. The students of that school held most of the leadership positions in the high school because of the skills and confidence instilled within us by the amazing faculty.

Public schools work.

Public schools work when you fund them properly. Public schools work when you create a culture of respect and encouragement for teachers. Public schools work when you attract and keep the ones called to the profession with competitive pay and positive work places. Public schools work when you trust educators to do what’s best for kids. Public schools work when you encourage parents and community members to engage in education. Public schools work when you provide extra help and resources to places where parent and community involvement is a void. Public schools work when you hold those within them to reasonable expectations using equitable and useful evaluation tools.

Those who want to dismantle public schools will seek to remove those things.

Starve schools of necessary funding. Villainize district officials. Degrade teachers. Pit administrators against teachers. Bury teacher autonomy with overly strict and unreasonable standards. Take away as much instructional time as possible using mandates and testing. Hold teachers accountable for variables beyond their control in a child’s education. Ignore the role of poverty in student achievement. Then, pass the buck to somebody else (greedy teachers, union politics, number of school districts, revenue failure brought about by poor budget planning…).

Why would anybody want to dismantle public education?

That’s the billion dollar question, folks. Unfortunately, I think there is an answer: because creating the false rhetoric that public schools are failing opens the door for a corporate takeover of education.

I don’t believe that education should be run like a business. Education is people. Education is children. And I don’t believe people and children are business. Do you?


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