Support Educators

Who is Really In Charge of Education?

It seems like my education news feed is going from bad to worse these days. One issue in particular has caused me to wonder, who is really in charge of education? Whose voice should be most important when it comes to how our educational system works?

By now, you’ve probably heard about how some Oklahoma legislators want to ban AP history classes, not because of funding issues, but because the classes place too much emphasis on “what’s wrong with America” and how American exceptionalism doesn’t take a front seat; essentially the legislators feel there is too much focus on the negative things that happened in American history.

I’m sorry, but what? What happened to studying history so we don’t repeat our mistakes? Is that not the point? To learn about the good and the bad so we can learn to make a better future?

I was obviously filled with all kinds of emotions when hearing about this, but the big question that came to my mind was how is it that there are there still people who think this way? And why are they the ones with the power to make such major changes in education standards? With all the issues plaguing our educational system today – like the inefficiency of standardized tests relative to their cost, or the fact that many students leave high school unprepared for either a career or college; you would think the legislators in Oklahoma would have “bigger fish to fry”. It is scary that this is what elected officials choose to focus on.

Another issue I’ve read about lately is how school districts in New Jersey are planning to lay off over 100 teachers to lessen a multi-million dollar budget gap. Because it’s clearly the teachers’ salaries that are the biggest money vacuums and not the dozens of extra administrator positions, right? (note the internet sarcasm) Cami Anderson, the Superintendent of Newark, New Jersey schools earns over a quarter-million dollars annually including bonuses to “manage” a school district of only 35,000 students. Our CEO asked the question on Twitter the other day – “What makes ANY superintendent worth 1/4 of a million dollars?”.

And we’ve already talked about issues with the Common Core and standardized testing – how their importance comes down to who profits from it the most. It’s like the majority of these problems are boiling down to money, and I’m feeling like a broken record.

When did the American education system turn into such a bureaucracy? I suppose it always has been, ever since we put it in the hands of the higher-ups. Yes, it was necessary to create departments of education with the growing population, but why did it have to become another tool of corporate profit? Who is benefiting in the long run?

I know that I’m not the only person who feels discontent with the way things are. Parents everywhere are raising concerns. Educator jobs are constantly being called into question on whether or not they are effective, underpaid, overworked, or qualified. We even have student activists (as mentioned in the Franklin Foundation’s latest #FeedbackFriday) who simply want their voices heard and opinions taken into consideration. The superintendent of Newark’s schools apparently met with the students and downplayed their concerns and issues. No surprise there.

So where is the communication disconnect between lawmakers and those who are affected? Who should be the most vocal when it comes to our children’s education? The parents? The teachers? The students? But besides who is vocal, who should policy makers listen to – because it seems lobbyists and special interests have louder voices these days.

Ideally, education should be a collaboration between parents, teachers, students and administrators alike, as well as the communities where all this takes place. The most important thing we all need to keep in mind is the future of America, because the decisions we make today will be the consequences of tomorrow. Today’s profits, could turn into tomorrow’s calamity.

If you’re a parent or a teacher, it’s okay to vent…we want to hear from you.

Tracey Woodard
Tracey Woodard
tracey.woodard@franklinfound.org

<p>Our Senior contributor Tracey Woodard graduated in 2010 from Bucknell University with a BA in English – Creative Writing and Theater. An advid believer in the importance of public school education, she uses a mix of personal and learned experiences to express her thoughts on today’s most pressing education issues. She currently resides just outside of Philadelphia, PA.</p>

  • North Jersey Reader

    Since your foundation advances science Ed, thought you’d be interested in statement by teachers at Science Park HS, a magnet school in Newark, NJ.

    Google “Science Park teachers: PARCC is ’30 days of destruction” on Bob Braun’s Ledger blog 2-28-15. This articulate letter says in effect PARCC test affects 1/6 school year. [sorry, I don’t know how to do links]

    Do legislators who call for “accountability” know what 6/36 weeks in school year represents?