I have worked as a teacher in the Juneau schools for 20 years alongside talented, hardworking colleagues, devoted and caring parents and community members, and children from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of abilities.
The testing fervor and political rhetoric of the past 10 years has eroded trust in public schools. The widespread conversation surrounding education has been reduced to numbers and finger pointing. Even in the midst of this climate, good teachers continue to work hard to teach our children and help them grow in a variety of ways. We have schools and school communities that we can be proud of.
In my classes, I have had children from all kinds of families learning together. In a reading or math group, for example, I might have a child whose parent is incarcerated working alongside a legislator’s child. I might have a child whose culture is deeply rooted in Southeast Alaska working with a child of recent immigrants to the U.S. All of these children and families make up the community that is our state, a community reflected in our public schools.
Families often take time to work in our classrooms, see the needs of our community, and become committed to help. They bring their cultures, their life experiences and expertise into the classroom and enrich the curriculum and the educational experience of all. In this way, public education serves to bring people together and develop a strong state.
One thing of which I am certain is that people from all socioeconomic backgrounds care about their children. However, if support to public schools becomes more limited and more power and money is given to private schools and school choice, the middle and upper income families will react to the erroneous, negative portrayal of public schools and leave in greater numbers than lower income families. It will create further divisions within our communities and our state.
However, if our state government supports our public schools with words and with money more of Alaska’s families will stay committed to public education, and work with educators to provide a rich experience for all our children.
I respectfully ask our governor and legislators to reflect on their perceptions of public education and recommit to pulling alongside the public education community for the betterment of all our families and children.