by Cesar Aguirre
Yesterday I was on AZ Illustrated talking about poverty. This is a very deep issue to discuss in an eleven minute interview. We weren’t even able to scratch the surface. The bus riders’ issues are very important to me and I was able to talk a little about how fare increases would afflict those who depend on Sun Tran for their daily transportation needs, many of whom live in poverty, but what I am really passionate about is public education. After a Bus Riders Union meeting last night I grabbed the paper and found a very interesting article on charter schools in the Tucson Weekly (http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/danehy/Content?oid=3959459) which caused my brain to churn and got me thinking about how so many people are being misled about our current education system. Being a single parent of two highly intelligent, out of the box thinkers that are total opposites of each other I know that their success is dependent on the quality of education they receive. That being said I am a huge supporter of school choice. I believe in school choice for all!
The truth is there really isn’t much choice for most of the people who live in my barrio. There is a private Catholic school only two or three blocks from the public school my children attend. How many of the families in my barrio can actually choose to send their kids there. Not many, because if they could afford it they probably wouldn’t live in my barrio. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means an attack on private education, but I believe private education should be just that, private. The term “school choice” has been used over and over again by politicians and policy makers to push the privatization of public schools. With charter school applications at an all-time high in Arizona, the passing of the state voucher system, the funding cuts for public schools at the state level (over a billion dollars in the last 5 years), the passing of unfunded mandates and pressure on educators to make students perform on tests that are culturally biased and measure only quantitive data rather than qualitive, our tax payer moneys are being funneled out of the classroom and into the pockets of the owners of charter schools, private schools and large corporations like Pearson and other standardized test makers. And now with the new assessments that require students to test on a computer coming soon, computer and software companies stand to make boatloads of money too, all paid for by our taxes.
I know that there are a few good charter schools out there but I don’t think that they are model schools for public education. Public schools should be held accountable to how tax dollars are spent, but public charters are an exception to the rule. They receive more tax dollars per student (after accounting for services regular public schools are required by law to provide like transportation and meals) but can manage those funds however they see fit, and they don’t even have to show the state how they spent it. No transparency. No accountability. No public control. Please read the article cited above and do some deeper research in order to spread consciousness on this subject. All of America’s children deserve a high quality education!