Equality & equity in school systems, where are we? I know that I will be judged for writing this, so I want to make a few statements before I get into my thoughts on education and equality & equity. I love public schools. For the most part, I stand with Red for Ed. My daughter and two daughters-in-laws work in the public school system. I have worked for 23 years in public schools. Currently, every one of my grandchildren attends public schools – 7 that are of age. I am also supportive of charter schools, having unsuccessfully sought authorization to become a charter school. I have studied charter schools and been through the arduous process in the state of Indiana. I have been a teacher in a private - faith based school. So I have experienced three systems of education. I am by no means an expert, but I have some thoughts on the matter of equality & equity in education.
Public schools provide ALL children with access to an education. This is equality. No one can be denied this right to be educated. But do all public schools provide equity; do all public schools provide a quality education to ALL children? These are tough questions; no one wants to answer no. But, if we are honest, we know that some schools have far more access to resources, quality buildings & classrooms, and highly effective and experienced teachers than others. Though the public school system displays equality, we have a ways to go when it comes to equity. The wealthier school districts and schools seem to have their needs met when it comes to educating students – good facilities, resources, effective and experienced teachers. While there are urban and other schools who struggle to provide adequate facilities, resources, and usually have fewer experienced teachers.
I believe one reason charter schools came into existence was due to the equity issue. Charter schools provide parents with a choice that they normally would not have. Wealthier families have had the privilege of choosing the type of education they desire for their children. Many other parents were not and are not afforded this privilege and choice. Some charter schools even target specific populations in order to make a difference such as an African American population, low-income students, English as a second language… Charter schools are public schools, meaning they cannot deny access to any student – though there is a lottery process in place due to the possibility of waiting lists. Charter schools and public schools have similarities and differences. Like public schools, there are charter schools with buildings and classrooms that are not in the best conditions. Some charter schools are not meeting expectations. Again, we could say the same for public schools. So are charter schools doing a good job with equality and equity? Our answer would probably be some are and some aren’t. And those that aren't should be dealt with as any public school; charters in Indiana do have authorizers in place that are supposed to monitor and deal with such things. What a charter does accomplish is providing an opportunity for choice.
Then we have private schools. Vouchers provide another way to provide equity to those who otherwise would have no avenue to attend these types of schools. Debate continues on the use of vouchers and on charter schools, for that matter. Vouchers and charters are a response to equity issues and choice. Legislators who fight for charters and vouchers are not evil people; they are not necessarily against public schools. They might be people who believe in equality and equity. Until we are able to provide both equality and equity in the public school system, we should look at ways to provide equality and equity to our children.
It is not wrong to question charter schools and vouchers. It is in hearing those thoughts that we are better able to supply our children with an education of equality and equity. We do have to look at inadequacies in both vouchers and charters. Some believe that people who support charters and vouchers want to eliminate public schools. Are there really people out there wanting to eliminate public schools? Maybe – it's hard for me to believe that most people would want to eliminate this important institution.
As a principal, I once feared charter schools and vouchers. I, too, fought against them. But one way our staff attempted to fight this battle was to rejuvenate our school – sadly that never came to fruition. I have learned that charter schools and vouchers do not have to be our enemies. But what we do need to do is to make sure our public schools are funded in a way that allows our public schools to provide both equality and equity. We do need to value our public schools and our public school servants (staff). On these issues, I stand with Red for Ed. I fight not to abolish charters and vouchers; I fight to provide the best education for all children. I fight for equality, equity, and choice. It must be a matter of equality AND equity.