Will the real beneficiaries of public education please stand up


2/15/2011

“Upon the subject of education...I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in.” — Abraham Lincoln

I’ve read with interest comments and editorials from business officials expressing concern about the quality of workforce our public education system delivers. After all, schools exist to prepare workers for careers, they say, making the business community the ultimate beneficiary of public education.

On the other hand, I hear parents who claim the public education system exists solely to assist in the role of educating their children. Parents, they deduce, are the true consumers of public education.

Others argue that since taxpayers foot the bill, they should be viewed as the real public education customers. Still others say Utah’s constitution gives the responsibility for public education to the state, so public education serves the governor or the legislature.

So, who is the real beneficiary of public education: business, parents, taxpayers, the governor, the legislature, the students themselves?

Or, as the enlightened Grinch eventually understood about Christmas, maybe public education...perhaps...“means a little bit more!”

Could it be that we ALL benefit from an educated citizenry? Could reformer Martin Luther have been correct in his observation that “[w]hen schools flourish, all flourishes?”

If you believe, as I do, that public education serves ‘We the People’, you should be concerned about several proposals under consideration by the Utah Legislature. There are three resolutions (SJR1, SJR9, HJR15) that would change Utah’s constitution to give the legislature or the governor more control over education. There are also proposals to politicize the process by making school board elections partisan. Each of these changes would distance public education from the public and diminish the voice of the people.

One bill, HB264, which the UEA supports, would require the direct, nonpartisan election of State Board of Education members. This would be a welcome change to the current school board selection process and give more voice to the people.

These are just a few of the nearly 100 public education-related law changes our legislature is considering. As I said in a previous blog, there is an impending crisis in public education. Now is a critical time for all of us, the beneficiaries of public education, to stand up and fight for it.

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