It is an understatement to say that those who work with public schools are not thrilled with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Her aversion to public schooling is on display every time she speaks publicly. Since public schools are not getting any help from Washington, it is on all of us to defend public education now.
There are lots of issues in education to take on, and some will dispute me on these, but here are four critical areas of work that I think need to be taken on to help public schools now:
- School safety: Support the the right of children to attend schools without worry of gun violence, as well as restorative practices so that schools are actively peaceful places. The drive for these changes come straight from the youth themselves, from the Black Lives Matter campaign and the Parkland students.
- Fight for funding and salary increases: There are teachers all over the country that are working very hard for little pay. Each year there are increasing demands on teachers from having the burden of too much testing to cuts in mental health and social supports for students, all while more and more students in poverty show up at schoolhouse doors every day. The arts and libraries have been cut dramatically from school. The need for funding in public schools is critical, and living wage for teachers is a crucial part of increasing the funding to schools. Many states around the country are involved in battles over school funding. In Maryland, where I live, there are two bills at the state legislature now to increase school funding, but only one HB557 is demanding that school funding be increased immediately. Find your local bill or organization to support in this struggle.
- Protecting unions: Teachers are striking around the country. They have had it with state austerity plans that drain their schools and their pensions of funding, while asking teachers to do more with less every day. Teachers buy their own school supplies, take on second jobs, and still find time to coach, run an after school program, or sit on the PTA. SCOTUS is considering a case now that will make or break unions. Known as the Janus case, the court is deciding whether union membership can be optional essentially. If the court decides that union membership is optional, then we can say goodbye to union protections for teachers and many other workers. This would be destructive to teachers who would suddenly have no job protection, and would discourage future teachers from going into the field. The final decision should come down in June and will tell us if the unions will continue to strengthen or will this be their last gasp.
- Combat privatization: Our Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is trying promote privatization throughout the public school system. She just submitted a budget in which pubic school funding would be slashed, cutting after school programs and professional development for teachers while increasing funding for vouchers and other school choice schemes. Call you legislators to tell them to turn down this budget, and to not approve a new one unless it fully supports public schools.