BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
“If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values-that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”–Martin Luther King
In the discussion about charter schools and education reform we see two sides going at each other from behind a curtain of statistics, facts and figures. They want to convince you, John and Jane Q. Public, of what works and what doesn’t. Students are just another variable in this equation. Or, if you are the director of the Mississippi Association of Educators, they’re dollar signs ($$$$).
The one thing that neither side has done a very good job of doing is explaining what Education Reform in Mississippi is really about in the end, and how that should inform actions. What all this discussion comes down to–despite worry over should we or shouldn’t we, what works and what doesn’t, who will be short of money and who will get more–is morality.
Reforming education in Mississippi is a moral imperative. Those that are protecting a failed government system are protecting an immoral system. Education is not about adults. It’s about children. It’s not about teacher pay. Nor is it even really about student performance on this test or that. It’s about children’s futures.
The more we all hear the likes of the Parent’s Campaign Director Nancy Loome cherry pick facts to talk about protecting what works; the more we hear news of Desoto Superintendent Milton Kuykendall and Superintendent Association Executive Director Sam Bounds talk about protecting certain so called “high performing” districts; the more we hear Kevin Gilbert at MAE talk about protecting employee retirement by keeping more kids in the government system; the more we hear legislators and bureaucrats talk about making sure only so called “professionals” at the Dept. of Education or on school boards have authority to approve or veto types of schools; then the more we know exactly where they stand. It’s not with children. It’s with those who are making money by continuing to crush those children’s futures, OUR children’s futures.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention the teachers. That is because they, like the students, are caught in the middle of all of this.
That is why this conversation about Education Reform is only beginning with charter schools. That is why full school choice should be the ultimate goal. Because many of these so called education leaders aren’t arguing on behalf of the future of Mississippi’s children. They care only for appearances and keeping the gravy train rolling.
Unfortunately, pro-reform supporters have been drawn into a tit-for-tat statistical game. They have been tricked into playing defense about grading systems and funding formulas, authorizers and non-profit vs. for-profit.
That is not to say there should be no consideration for such things. There should be a preparation for every argument.
However, every statement regarding MAEP funding, charter schools, virtual online education, authorizers, grading systems and whatever else is thrown up, questioned and answered, should be followed with a simple and emphatic statement:
“WE OWE Mississippi children, because OUR entire government school system has gotten it oh-so-wrong for way too long.”
It is the status-quo supporters that are to blame for high unemployment among young people. It is the years of government-school “give-us-our-damn-money-or-we’ll-raise-hell” tactics that are to blame for railroading generations into poverty. And, it is our elected officials that have allowed them to do it.
It is time for someone to point the finger and say clearly:
It is the government school system that is to blame for much of the grinding poverty among black Mississippians. It is time for our children, our future generations, to be free. Let them out of your failed system.
Holding someone against their will has a name. Our country and our state long ago determined it to be an immoral practice. We are often told that we should never forget that. We should also not forget that to allow the theft of a child’s future based on the greed someone has today is the same thing, and should be called for what it is.
About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett