To the editor:
I found the School Choice editorial in The Journal puzzling. It seems the message was that since New Ulm has both public and private choices in education, the rest of the nation should have no problem with DeVos’ agenda. This is a misconception.
The system works in New Ulm because this is a homogenous and fairly affluent community which means that:
We have an active and dedicated group, the “Friends of District 88” who contribute financially to the public schools.
When we need funds to maintain a reasonable level of education in our public schools, we can resort to referendums.
In spite of the fact that public school teachers are underpaid and overworked, they are committed to the idea of excellence and go above and beyond what’s expected of them in terms of time and money input. They pay for many of their supplies and even hold fund raisers and write grants to support their curriculums. I strongly believe that this is one of the main reasons that, even with bigger classroom sizes, the level of education is on par with the private schools.
The majority of students who are in need of special education attend public schools. Most parents who I’ve talked to say that attending public schools makes their children integration and socialization with the community easier.
Private school students who want to participate in certain activities or classes not offered in their schools end up using public school facilities, especially for Liberal Arts and sports.
In other words, New Ulm is not like most of the rest of the state or the country. To me it seems disingenuous to say that what works for us would work everywhere else.
The tone of the editorial seems to suggest that if DeVos’ agenda does not affect us, we shouldn’t care about the rest of the country. But if her agenda is implemented, it will definitely affect our community. Any funds re-routed toward vouchers and private schools will mean fewer resources to maintain the quality of public education we are working so hard to maintain.
Our employers actively try to recruit workers with young families. One of the primary criteria for these newcomers is a high quality public school system. Studies also show that good public education reduces crime and unemployment.
Not everybody wants or can afford religious education. While I respect the right of parents who want extra religious education, I don’t want it to be at the expense of the rest of us. I was particularly alarmed by DeVos’ comment that she wants to put “Jesus” back in the schools. I find that extremely un-American and contrary to the first amendment edict of church and state separation.
The United States has fallen to between 14th and 19th in global education rankings, thus reducing our competitiveness. The common traits of countries ahead of us are a strongly funded public education, respect and appreciation for their teachers, high regard for the Sciences and recognition that the Liberal Arts uplift the human spirit and enlighten the world regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.
The world has changed; we do not have the luxury of living in our little communities excluding the rest of the world. We have to prepare our students to face a world of global competition. To do this we need free, well-funded, open-minded, unbiased education.