Michigan passed a law that allows the State to dissolve small, struggling school districts. In this round, Buena Vista School in Saginaw County and Inkster in the metro-Detroit area, will be closed and consolidated. Both schools were under-attended and neither had enough money to open again in the fall.
And yet we call the situation “failing schools” rather than “failing treasury department”.
In the last three years, the number of permanent school closures has been at its highest since the early 1980’s.
A Nation At Risk (the first publication which compared American school-age children’s achievements with those of their international peers, and found the Americans wanting) was published in April of 1983.
We perceive the American Educational System to be in a state of emergency. This “crisis” mentality has given politicians an excuse to make rash decisions and call them “strong leadership” and has limited their accountability to the people. In a crisis, we accept that our elected officials can push the normal rules of democratic citizenship into a secondary position. Our elected officials have held the educational system hostage, under the pretense of a national educational deficiency pandemic because living in a “crisis” affords them more power. Politicians addressing a “crisis” (like War-time leaders and Emergency Managers), are able to brush aside democratic processes and unilaterally cut, create, and re-design major institutions, regardless of protest or opposition.They have systematically reduced educational funding over the last 13 years, and then cried “crisis!” when the principals and teachers were unable to manage their institutions on these malnourished budgets.
Politicians on Education have become crisis-junkies – they need a crisis in order to maintain their position. Finding a solution that is complex, gradual, and effective is much more complicated and requires a much greater level of expertise and intelligence than our elected officials can give.
If we stop acting as though every moment was the last moment in the history of American public education, and then give back all of the money we’ve taken from our schools, we could stop schools from failing, prevent school closures, and improve educational opportunities for the communities that are most vulnerable.
It’s not charter schools or business-apparatuses or lower-salaried teachers or whole-language learning that will improve the educational system – it’s money and time and patience.