Local, national voices join conversation on public education

This past week has certainly been interesting and enlightening with local, state and national voices.

Listening to the discussion regarding state aid and property tax relief – taking place with the State Legislature’s joint Revenue and Education Committees earlier this week– gave insight to the difficulties associated with the many opinions about changing the state aid formula.  I was able to offer testimony underlining that our school district believes the current distribution formula promotes equity and ensures a high quality educational experience for all students.  Of course, there was some disagreement with my comments.  I do understand that there is great pressure on making changes to the system, however, I hope any possible changes do not result in a loss of revenue for our 40,000 Lincoln Public Schools students whose needs continue to grow.

This week I also was invited to participate in a discussion with Diane Ravitch – a national historian of education, educational policy analyst, author and college professor – who was brought to Omaha by community leaders interested in hearing a discussion of her latest book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”  While Ravitch acknowledged Nebraska is a little known national success, she also indicated public education in many states has undergone significant change brought on by movements to privatize under the guise of creating more opportunities for kids with less restrictions at much less cost. Ravitch believes such privatization does not work, and that there is no data to suggest otherwise.

She pointed out that poverty continues to be a real challenge to learning for many students and, in fact, privatization in some states has led to greater economic segregation – which ultimately leads to lower success rates for schools that have consequently lost funds. We recognize this will continue to be a spirited discussion, and we must be vigilant in making sure that our policymakers have all the facts.

Our role as good citizens is to continue speaking out for public education and reminding our community that education for all students is the greatest enterprise available to create an even better future for our country.