Our Back to School series ends today just like the first or second week of school will for millions of North Carolina public school students. If there is anything that should be taken from this series it is that in the light of what seem to be tremendous problems, we still see success.
It would be foolish to say that we see the success that we all want to see. We still have problems with a school-to-prison pipeline that takes too many students out of an educational environment and, worse, puts mostly minority students in contact with the criminal justice system. Too many immigrant students are not being enrolled in school based on their perceived status. As you may note from this very series, the state has not invested in the programs that help students to achieve.
If there is a takeaway, it should be that our school personnel and our students are resilient. In the last few months students have seen:
- A voucher program that provided taxpayer money that should have been going to their schools but was designated for unaccountable private schools ruled unconstitutional
- Their teachers get an illusory raise
- Their custodian given half the raise of a person doing the same job in a different government building
- Bad public policy continue with the Read to Achieve legislation which acts to retain 3rd grade students if they cannot read at grade level, particularly when most research shows that retention is an educational detriment rather than a good tool to remediate problems
- The attempt to have the Common Core State Standards from which they were learning be eliminated even though their teachers liked the standards
When our children go back to school, we all do. If you believe education is about creating students to compete in the global economy or that we send our kids to school to become creative, independent people who will be good world citizens, then you know that a strong public education system is the way we reach either of those goals.
The state’s constitution requires that the “General Assembly shall provide by through taxation or otherwise a general and uniform system of free public schools.” Despite plans to privatize are schools, the constitution prevails. We want the principles and rights provided by our state’s constitution to be resilient. They are.
We want to protect our children from bullies, over-testing, underfunding and underrepresentation. We sometimes fail but even when we do, our children have been resilient. If we want to show our children our pride in their resiliency, we will not falter when it comes time to ensure that we invest in schools. We will not falter when privatizers see our students as assets rather people to nurture. We will not falter when we children excluded from our schools based on immigration status and we will not falter when we see our children being disciplined too harshly or too often.
Our students’ resilience is bolstered by our unwillingness to falter. Instead of having them be resilient in the face of our failures, let’s reward their resilience by guaranteeing that we will provide all that they need from our finances and our policies.