There once was a school of thought in this country that public schools represented one of the essential foundations of the American concept known as E Pluribus Unum.
Public schools were part of the fabric that gave our country its backbone. They provided the vision and security that America was the undisputed leader of the free world.
Further, public schools were considered just that: public. For those who chose not to attend public schools and go the home-school, private or parochial route, they also sacrificed the privilege of the American taxpayer footing the bill for their children’s education.
Somewhere along the way, we threw that ideal out the window.
In Arizona this past week, the state’s leadership continued this trend of turning its back on the traditional public school system to finance non-traditional education under the guise that it is all public. Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation that funnels equal share public school dollars to those that attend private and parochial schools.
This follows a trend that began in 1994 when the state began its education cost-shift from public schools to the charter system. We reinvented the definition of what a public school was and the loser in this new look at education was the traditional public school system.
With public education dollars now shared between traditional, charter, private and parochial institutions, the financial clout once enjoyed exclusively by traditional public schools has been reduced to pennies on the education dollar.
Not so surprisingly, this so began the decline of the traditional public school system. You see it in annual reports that show declining test scores, low teacher morale, over-crowded classrooms, reduced dollars dedicated for classroom instruction and facility disrepair.
Every year, you see legislative posturing about the need to make our public school system great again. More often than not, such chest-beating is all talk with no action. Further, the very people who make the most noise about the need to make our public school system great again fail to acknowledge that they were the very people who derailed the system.
They gave it away. They created a system that required more taxpayer dollars just to maintain the status quo, and then refused to adequately finance the system. Non-traditional schools began to flourish at the expense of the traditional public school system.
They cheated a system that once was considered a key cornerstone of American greatness.
They gave it away.