CRI Focus Areas

A Vision For My Child?


The couple waits at the back of the meeting room until the crowd thins out. The gentlemen steps forward, “Can I share a success story with you? Our son was not a great student but did okay. In high school he learned an electrical trade. One summer he worked for a company that had a lighting problem and after others tried he diagnosed and fixed the problem. When he graduated he went to work for one company. It took him twelve years to get his college degree going part time. Now he works for a major company in Delaware; he travels all around the world setting up facilities for them.”   The woman waits patiently for the woman ahead of her to finish talking before coming forward. “My son is one of those students.” I asked her what she meant. She replied, “You know one of those who have not finished college after more than 6 years. We don’t know what he’s going to do.”   The woman’s eyes are both intense and sad. “All the crime, the drugs, teen pregnancy . . . they happen everyday in our neighborhoods. My heart breaks for the children who are being killed on the streets of Wilmington. We have dreams for our children. They can be whatever they want to be.” There is an uncomfortable silence. “We’ve gone beyond populating prisons with our children to populating cemeteries.” That weekend two teens were shot and killed a couple blocks from where we were speaking. The following week a big deal was made of the announcement of a new Chinese Language Program.   All parents have visions for their children. Unfortunately too many have been let down by fifty years of government programs that promised and failed to deliver for their sons and daughters; programs not preparing pupils for college or closing the gap between the top and bottom performers. Families are demoralized because they believed their children would have an equal opportunity to have whatever is necessary to help them secure their goals. Now another administration (the 9th since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was enacted in 1965) asks them to believe in another program.   While the political rhetoric is about helping children, the experience over the past fifty years with government imposed solutions (either direct or through a quid pro quo of adopt programs in return for money) is they have failed to improve education or help secure an education essential for success in life. Too much of the emphasis is in public buildings and rewarding adults in the system, and too little has been in the classroom where a difference can be made.   In 1961 Martin Luther King wrote ‘that means must be as pure as the end.’   The question: If the end is to educate children to be successful in life and that education occurs in the classroom how much of the money spent actually is in the classroom? In Delaware the average expenditure per class of 25 pupils has $350,000 left after paying teacher salary and benefits. How does the system spend $350,000 per class? Do the details of spending that annually totals more than $2 billion a year satisfy the test of a pure means? Why do teachers have to use money from their pocket to buy supplies for the classroom?   The conversation about spending and need for change is gaining momentum at all levels of society and in many communities where families have been demoralized from the lack of progress.   Dr. King wrote “. . . one seeks to defeat the unjust system, rather than individuals who are caught in that system. The thing to do is to get rid of the system and thereby create a moral balance within society.”   And some are doing just that by opting out of the public school system for private or charter systems that better fit the education, values and aspirations of their children. Unfortunately not all have an equal opportunity to opt out because they cannot afford to pay taxes and tuition for a private education or cannot home school.    It is time to stop funding buildings and departments – it is time to fund pupils.   At this time there is so much innovation and technology that can move us into a better and different place; a place that can be tailored to the needs of the individual pupil and family. It is time to move the conversation from selling imposed solutions like Common Core, and traditional spending like Race to The Top. It is time to provide all families at all income levels with the opportunity to choose the best education for their children. A recent survey by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) commissioned to gauge attitudes and opinions within the Black community on education reform, charter schools and the need for parental choice found that 85 to 89 percent in each state agreed that government should provide parents with as many choices as possible to ensure their child receives a good education. Attitude surveys in Delaware find: 59 percent of all ethnic groups and income levels surveyed rate public schools as poor or worse, and almost 70 percent would send their children to private schools if they had the financial resources. Clearly people are interested, are informing themselves and want to be involved in shaping the direction of education and not accepting the rhetoric or leaving it to federal or state politicians and bureaucrats to impose solutions that better fit their priorities than the only priority that matters -- a good education for every child.   Families are important and have visions for their children. Visions not as grandiose as to require Chinese language training or that if they were in another state their child can attend a school with a Common Core curriculum.   They have visions more like: we want a better future for our sons and daughters and an equal opportunity for them to secure a good education – right here in Delaware.   Thank you.   Jim Hosley Director, Center for Education Excellence * BAEO randomly surveyed a broad and diverse age and income members of the Black community in four states (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi) that have a high number of low-income and working-class Black families who would potentially benefit from parental choice policies_OLD and other education reforms.  

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