Where do I even start? From school safety and funding to teacher compensation and curriculum, our education system here in NJ and across the country is a mess and in desperate need of change. My own two children attended and recently graduated from NJ public schools, so my views come mostly from the position of a parent, and that, ironically, is what gives me the greatest hope for education in our state.
The most expensive item by far of our New Jersey Property tax bills is the school tax portion. New Jerseyans paid over $16 Billion dollars in school taxes last year. Healthcare premium charges account for a large portion of that bill. There are reports that school security could become the largest expense in the future, even surpassing compensation, as we need to protect our children from gun violence. New school construction is designed with active shooter deterrents in mind, curved hallways, fortified closets, etc. and the cost to retrofit existing schools will be passed onto taxpayers.
There are many problems to be sure, but from what I have seen, the strong foundation of our education system is very much intact.
I am speaking, of course, of our teachers.
I know this from multiple personal experiences through the years with my own children. I know that our teachers are indeed heroes and every day they respond to a job description that does not capture everything they do, and they are not adequately compensated.
I look at Education the way I do every other issue, which is how it affects people. For most, education is the pathway to long term health, economic success, and citizenship in our democracy. Unfortunately, current policies have worsened already existing health disparities and inequities in educational opportunities, which are closely tied to socioeconomic status. Our current system deprives already disadvantaged communities from attaining a good education.
All schools should provide more flexible opportunities for learning instead of teaching to a set of uniform standards. Some children adapt and can manage and even thrive with current requirements, but many cannot, and they become disillusioned. Because we do not adapt to meet their needs, they struggle and become frustrated. This leads to many issues, including, but not limited to “failure”, truancy, drop outs, drug use and anxiety. I know personally what it is like to struggle in school and the frustration that comes with it. If there are problems at home, this is compounded. The challenges are great, but we need representatives willing to use resources to better serve our schools.
I believe that if American history is taught accurately, Critical Race Theory will be addressed on its own without need for politicization. The more I learn about this, the more disturbed I become. I want our children to be taught more honestly than I was. In regards to banning books, I like the quote "Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight. - Stephen Chbosky. We should never be afraid of truth.
I am no expert in this field, but I believe that we need to look to include teachers and students in the discussion. They know best what is needed, and if we trust them with our children, we certainly can trust them to lead us with the challenges we face in our public schools.
Inequities highlighted by COVID-19