By Clark Hopper
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, American public school districts, elementary and secondary, had total expenditures of approximately $610.1 billion in 2008-2009. These expenditures currently include instruction, student support services, food services and enterprise operations. These are the latest figures available. I provided these figures so you would understand the real reason for the push to utilize public school (non-profit) funding for private schools (for-profit), opportunity scholarships, Education Savings Accounts (ESA) and school of choice programs.
Big business has been licking its chops for years trying to get control of billions of American taxpayer’s dollars used to educate our children. Remember America’s public schools are non-profit organizations whose only goal is to educate our children with taxpayer funds. For-profit organizations are there to the cut corners and increase the profit!
The Arkansas State Board of Education recently reviewed six charter school applications. We had a cap of 24 private schools and a recent new law allows the expansion of five more when the cap is reached. The Walton-financed charter school movement is itching to pass legislation to open the door, without restriction, to charter schools. Luke Gordy, former state Board of Education chair, is now a paid lobbyist for the wealthy Arkansas pro-charter school supporters, (Walton, Stephens, Murphy, and Hussman). This group hired Laurie Lee, former Fayetteville, and AR. school library worker, to promote the charter school/choice (voucher) cause.
You may remember the Laurie Lee name from a recent article in the Saline Courier. From reading the article, one can determine Lee’s obvious plan was to discredit Arkansas public school programs. She must have forgotten the national accolades Arkansas public school programs achieved recently by being fifth in the nation. Lee presented her prepared script with few facts and little interaction with the audience. I did not see anything in the article listing her qualifications to be questioning the education programs of Saline County, or any other County for that matter. Is Lee a teacher and what is her level of education? She can send her children to a private school any time she wants, but let her pay for it, don’t take it out of public school funding! Do not allow our legislators to take the money out of public school taxpayer funds! If Lee had done any research on Saline County Schools, she would have found the children have some of the highest grades in the State.
How do private and public schools compare? You might want to know more about the differences and similarities between private and public schools. Public schools must adhere to state standards regarding what can be taught and how it is presented. Certain subjects, such as religion and sexual practices, are taboo. Rulings in many court cases over the years have determined the scope and limits of what can be taught and how it is presented in public schools. By contrast, a private school can teach whatever it likes and present it any way they choose. As a rule, both public and private high schools require a certain number of credits in core subjects such as English, mathematics and science in order to graduate.
Public schools must accept all students in their jurisdiction with few exceptions. Behavior is one of those exceptions; bad behavior must be clearly documented over time. A private school accepts any student it wishes according to its academic and other standards. A reason for refusing anyone is not required and its decision is final! Both private and public schools use some kind of testing and review transcripts to determine the grade level for new students.
Teacher accreditation is generally required for public schools in most states. Teacher accreditation for private schools is optional allowing anyone to teach students. According to the National Education Association (NEA) for profit charter schools rarely outperform traditional public schools, even when the charter receives higher funding.
In review, is it fair to allow tax funded public school money to be skimmed off for private schools who teach anything they want? Is it fair private schools can pick or turn away any student without a reason? They can enroll well-behaved or high scoring students while turning down students with behavior problems or lower academic grades utilizing public school funding to do it! The bottom line is it allows private schools to choose the cream of the crop students in both academics and athletics from public schools and rake in taxpayer dollars. It reduces public schools overall grade point averages, and revenue while jeopardizing their future! This creates a class division in our society!
Public schools are obligated by law to educate all children; private schools have no such obligation. Private schools are not required to provide programs for children with special needs. If a child’s behavior is disruptive, they can be expelled. Children can be kicked out if their academic progress is not acceptable. Is it right to mandate public school teachers to be accredited, while private school teachers are not required to be?
Do we really want Saline County Schools loosing taxpayer funds to private schools increasing the number of students, due to loss of funds in our classrooms? Do we really want the level of education our children and grandchildren receive adversely effected by money being diverted to private schools? We have great public schools and teachers in Saline County and we must fight to keep them! Get involved now and talk to your local school superintendents!
The opinions expressed in this column are my opinions alone and not those of the entire Saline County Democratic Central Committee.