The following is an op-ed from S.O.S. (Support Our Schools) Wauwatosa board member Stacy Racine Lynch.
Kids all over Wisconsin went back to school recently, and, in the coming months, there’s going to be a lot of talk about education funding and “school choice” in the news. Governor Walker recently stated that K-12 education will be a priority in his 2017 state budget. That sounds like good news for the vast majority of Wisconsin families who send their kids to public schools. Nevertheless, it’s important for parents and community members to learn about the differences between public versus voucher schools (private schools funded by taxpayers) and pay attention to the fine print in this coming winter’s state budget.
We hear a lot about “school choice” in reference to voucher schools and other educational options. Nevertheless, I’m eager to share with my legislators and my fellow citizens why my husband and I chose public schools for our kids and why I’ll continue to support them.
Public schools offer so much
In high school, our kids had access to Advanced Placement classes in English, science, math, social studies, foreign language and the arts. They had access to strong visual and performing arts curricula. They participated in physical education and school-based sports teams. They had great teachers that had a profound impact on their lives. Large public schools are able to offer many options to their students; that is not always the case in other settings.
Public schools are for everyone
The kids in our public schools represent our community. They come from a variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and some have physical and cognitive disabilities. There are kids from a wide variety of racial and ethnic identities and others from the LGBT community who openly claim their identity. My kids experienced differences firsthand and learned to value how much we all have in common. It seems unlikely that voucher and other schools can claim as much diversity as our public schools can.
Public schools have elected school boards and multiple accountability measures
When people in our community have a concern about their public schools, they can raise it with their kids’ teacher, guidance counselor, principal, superintendent or school board. Wisconsin public school teachers have high professional standards, and our schools have numerous regulations by which they abide. Voucher schools are not held to the same accountability standards, and dozens have closed in recent years, some of them overnight, with no notice to families.
Public schools have much to celebrate
Wisconsin enjoys the third highest high school graduation rate in the country, and public schools have a proven track record over many generations. Our daughter and son are starting their junior and freshman year in college this fall; one is at Stanford and the other is at Harvard. Nearly all of our kids’ peers are attending college, working, serving in the military or pursuing technical training. As parents and as a community, we have much to be proud of.
Public schools served our children well. I want the same thing for kids throughout Wisconsin as well as future generations. S.O.S. Wauwatosa is holding a Fall Forum on Oct. 3, where parents and community members can learn more about the value provided by the public nature of public schools and the upcoming budget process. People can find more information and RSVP at www.SOSwauwatosa.org.
Please join us in supporting public schools.