Thursday, September 2, 2010

Public Education and Why It's a Necessity, Part I (Revised)*

I'm heartened to know that friends still support their local public schools even while their children attend private schools. When millages come up for a vote, they vote "yes". They could easily focus on only their own kids' school and lives, but in supporting public schools they are helping to strengthen democracy in our republic.

It's sad when people don't support public schools. Last year a county-wide millage, proposed to help Washtenaw County schools that are underfunded by the state of Michigan, failed. It had enough votes to pass in the city of Ann Arbor but failed in the outlying, more rural districts that tend to vote Republican. One local real estate speculator spent thousands of dollars on signs to "vote against the millage" because it would mean more taxes to pay. He succeeded in convincing struggling families and pensioners to keep the next generation of students from having a competitive education__for the time being.

And now that corporations can be treated as individuals and congresspeople can be paid for, it's frightening to think how the disparity of opportunity may grow in our country.

The billionaires behind the Tea Party movement, the Koch brothers, are for abolishing the public education system, federal regulatory agencies, social security and the FBI. The Koch brothers are against "government enterprise that would either inhibit business profits or increase taxes." A plutocracy of mediocrity could overtake our country if these folks come to power.

Some wealthy people find the Kochs' vision of the United States anathema. They realize their position of opportunity to try and make the future a better place for all children__by endowing scholarships, contributing to foundations, working with non-profit groups, supporting public education and more.

Thankfully, Ann Arbor has a very proactive, independent fund-raising parent group such as the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation. Because of this endowment our kids won't go without the extras that enrich a student's experience. There will be cultural events. There will be technology in the classroom.

Other county schools aren't so lucky. Their hardworking parents may not have the resources to fund or take the time to create such an institution as AAPSEF. And that's the rub. Statewide bureaucrats have taken money away from the public schools and have disregarded the next generation's chance of success. This is unacceptable.

It's imperative that we have leaders in state capitals and everywhere who are up for this struggle. Call out those who work against public education and support those who do.

Your legacy, your country, your world depends on it.

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