Is This Still About Educating Our Kids?

There is something missing from all of these education confirmations, meetings, school visits, bills, policies and conversations. In my opinion, it’s the human element and more specifically our kids and what is in their best interest.  Earlier this year, our new Secretary of Education was aggressively denied entrance into Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington D.C., returning a few weeks later to meet with staff, teachers and students. An interview Secretary DeVos gave after that meeting led to more than a few upset teachers, administrators and concerned citizens. It was a critical quote from Secretary Devos about the teachers at Jefferson Middle that sparked the intense backlash.  

“I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more successful from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching”

Wow. After praising the success of these teachers and this school on their recent accomplishments and after admitting that her conversation wasn’t long enough to “draw out” what would make this school more successful, our Madame Secretary uses her years of professional development experience to diagnose that the “receive mode” attitudes of these “wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers” is hindering them from bringing “success to an individual child.”

That speaks volumes, but it’s not even the most upsetting point. I find it disappointing that the sitting Secretary of Education gained entrance into a school that is successful at turning the lives of children around educationally, boosting reading levels and building confidence in children and she didn’t think to concentrate her comments on the achievement of the students. Those amazing minds are the very reason we find ourselves in this arena in the first place, they are our kids. As a parent, I always want our focus to intentionally resort back to talking about our kids. Does this law work effectively for our kids? Does this policy effectively change things for our kids? Is this bill being introduced with our kids being the ultimate benefactor? Is whatever I’m doing about our kids?

The problem with Secretary DeVos’ actions and comments is that it takes the focus off what should be the most important factor, what is best for the children, and places it on an adult debate. This opinionated, partisan, grudge match doesn’t work to provide success to our kids. Knowing that her actions will set precedent and could act as a catalyst for lawmakers on national, state and local levels, it’s imperative to keep our kids at the center of attention. If we lose sight of this, laws, bills and policies that might hurt children may be set in place.

Nationally, things are already beginning to look murky. In Kentucky, a newly elected House of Representatives passed a bill that would ultimately re-segregate a thriving school district and dismantle decades of action that has worked for our kids. State Representative Kevin Bratcher sponsored a bill that would end the busing of students in the Jefferson County area of Kentucky which continued using busing and magnet programs even after they disappeared in many districts. School officials say it has strengthened racial relationships and allowed for stronger academic gains for disadvantaged students, an example of a program that is working for families today. “This is a bill that will resegregate schools, taking us back to the ‘60s and ‘70,” said Chris Kolb, a graduate of Jefferson schools and a member of the county school board, which opposes the measure.” This will be the death of integration.”

As a parent, I have to ask whom is this bill suppose to help? It’s obviously not our kids.

Why do state representatives want to tread on local officials who represent parents. This is just another example of decisions being made without our kids’ education being the main priority. It wreaks of a partisan catfight between politicians without consideration of children.

Locally, the story is about the remainder of our district schools becoming charters. Recently, articles have come out questioning the district’s actions in applying to take over these schools as a new charter operator and it seems as though some unethical practices have taken place. Once again, I see the actions of individuals, politicians and administrations that do not seem to have that all so important question in mind: “Is this benefiting the education of Our Kids?”

I see laws, bills and policies that seek to make changes in education, but I don’t see providing the best education for our kids as the end goal. Politicians often seem to be seeking a reciprocated vote through favors, rather than thinking about whether their actions are beneficial  for our kids.

CEOs, COOs and CFOs of school districts and charter operators are sometimes concerned about the business aspect, but not fundamentally interested in whether their actions are favorable for the education of our kids.

When the lines begin to blur in education and the main objective is something other than what is best for our kids, then we have lost focus. We need to champion our voice for children louder than ever and let those all parties involved know from the onset that if this isn’t about educating our kids, then they are essentially wasting our time.

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