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Are Public Schools Really Broken?

When we were in San Diego over the holiday, we had lunch with a mutual friend.  This friend and her husband are both working in education in California.  He is a principal of a private school, and she is working with a company that creates charter schools across the country focused on helping at-risk students complete high school (focused mostly on job training).  As we lamented over some of the very frustrating issues plaguing education today, I heard her say several times that she believed that our public school system is very broken.  She believed that if “we were going to be able to ‘save’ our educational system, then the answer must come from the private sector”.

As we talked about that comment, I was reminded that she live s and works in a union state.  I asked her if she thought the difference in our ideas had to do with perhaps what unions were doing to the teaching profession (early tenure, and the inability to fire poor performing teachers).  She hadn’t really put that together, and she was reminded how different Texas public schools really are.

I have thought about that statement several times.  I am a proponent of public school.  I did all my teaching in public schools.  I taught in some wonderful public school systems all around Texas.  Now that our Texas legislators are considering a voucher system of sorts, I am curious about the changes that may bring.  Vouchers can bring competition into the picture in a very different way for our Texas school children.  I wonder if it will cause our public schools to improve, or will it cause many of our students to choose to attend private schools.

This will be very interesting to watch. Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization  just ranked US schools by state and Texas was number 30 and received a D while California (and 7 other states) received an F.  Clearly there is work to be done.  We can’t blame it all on the unions either because Texas (a non-union state) did not do much better on Rhee’s scale.  What do you think it will take to save our public schools…and our children?

Dr. Dawn Wilson


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