In her annual Message on Public Education, Jan Resseger, Minister for Public Education and Witness at the United Church of Christ Justice, denounces the privatization of public education as the abdication of our responsibilities as citizens of a democratic nation to provide all children with a fair and substantive opportunity to learn. The 10-page Message also functions as a primer on how different aspects of the privatization movement (from vouchers to education management organizations to charters and online schools) are undermining the principles of fairness and opportunity that our country holds so dear.
Resseger says that privatization is a slick-sounding way to avoid addressing the real problems plaguing our nation's schools:
"Its proponents insist that privatization will bring the efficiency and supposed cost savings of market competition to address what is a very real crisis in the poorest schools of our cities, where concentrations of children live in poverty, many in extreme poverty with family income less than $11,000 annually. In these communities state and local school funding adds up to sometimes half of what is spent in outlying suburbs [...]
Though our society has not been willing to support the public schools adequately to rectify growing inequality, we have continued to expect them to ensure that all children achieve and blamed the schools instead of ourselves when the schools have failed us."
While privatization supporters tout their 'no excuses' ideology as a way to dismiss the very real problems of economic inequality, Rassenger calls that ideology an excuse in and of itself for the lack of public will in our society to both acknowledge and tackle systemic problems. Instead, "we must act on our heritage of social justice" and work as a community to support the public schools that are so vital to our democratic well-being:
"Privatization undermines public purpose and the capacity of government to protect the public through well-regulated institutions. Poverty, income inequality and segregation by income as well as race are public problems best addressed systemically on a scale that can be accomplished only by government. We will need to halt the anti-tax demagoguery of today’s politics and invest in quality pre-school for all children and widespread public school reforms including more teachers and counselors to ensure that all children have personal connections to adults at school as well as services designed for the students’ particular needs. Large infusions of federal and state assistance will be necessary to compensate for the wide variation in local taxing capacity."
Read the rest of Resseger's Message on Public Education here.