It’s Public Schools Week – and I’m really excited! This special event gives me, Americans United and our supporters a chance to express how much we appreciate our public schools. It gives us an opportunity to talk about the important work AU does to ensure our public schools are diverse, inclusive, welcoming spaces that are the building blocks of vibrant learning communities.

I’m proud to have attended public school in Chicago, and all three of my children have attended public schools. I am also the founder and chair of the Diversity Task Force at Woodrow Wilson High School, the largest public high school in Washington, D.C. I know that all students learn more and better when schools give every student an equal sense of belonging and value.  

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 16, I’ll be talking more about why public schools are so important to me during a Facebook Live discussion with other AU staff members. We’ll be talking about how Americans United advocates for both public schools and religious freedom and what we’re doing right now to support these values. I hope you’ll join us!

Meanwhile, several champions of public education have shared with us a few thoughts below on why protecting and promoting public schools is so important to them. I encourage you to read their stories and share your own this #PublicSchoolsWeek so that we can amplify #LovePublicEducation!


 

Person

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Allison Mahaley, teacher turned activist, says no to the Trump/DeVos agenda to privatize public education. Allison is the former president of the AU North Carolina Orange-Durham Chapter.

Our children deserve access to a world-class education. That means an education rooted in accurate science and critical thinking. Our children have proven time and again that when they are in schools that do not discriminate and are educated to think critically, they are more compassionate, more empowered and more likely to be become productive and engaged adult citizens.

The Religious Right has fought for decades to deny American children that right. Americans United has been there all along the way fighting back – keeping the church out of our schools and our tax dollars away from churches. Public schools are the bedrock of our democracy.

 

Suhr ——

Sunnie Suhr is a preschool teacher, wife to her best friend, mom to four amazing boys and the owner of a skincare business.

I believe public schools are the only hope for our children's future. It is there to provide a safe learning environment, available to all for equal opportunity to learn at each grade level toward the goal of graduating and becoming productive citizens to our communities and the world. It is for so many the only choice for the best chance at an education. I have been privileged to attend public schools and to choose to send my children to public schools.

Having taught preschool, I know that the environment in which students learn plays a large role in their ability and desire to learn. So, if I could help in any way to shape and nurture a positive environment, I will do it. I know many public schools do not have proper access and funding, support from families and communities. But I still believe it can bring communities together and shape our future for the better.

 

Arroyo ——

Carrie Arroyo and her husband Fernando live and work in Waco, Texas, with their three kids, Jonas, Ezekiel and Eden, and their dog, Lolita. Carrie teaches at Baylor University in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. They love to hang out with neighbors, play gaga ball in their front yard and try to make their corner of the world a little better each day.

Every morning I find myself dragging our three kids out of bed for school. Trying to convince them to get up, get dressed, get their shoes on and get ready for a new day. And through all the dragging and convincing, I am grateful – grateful for school, grateful for the public education system with all of its flaws and struggles. Our public education system is the one institution in our country that exists to serve all regardless of income, race, ability, status, gender, religion or political affiliation.

Let's not allow all of the hard work toward equity and inclusion to be in vain. Public education is currently in a crisis and is being threatened to no longer be public. On the Texas Republican primary ballot this month, 79 percent of voters said to yes to Proposition 5 that gauges support for private school vouchers. The problem with using federal dollars to empower families to "choose" is the same story of inequality that has been the history of this nation. Those with resources will have infinite choices and those without with have less than what they have now from which to choose. I am not being naive; I know our schools are not perfect. But instead of giving up on public education, let's keep working hard to make it work for everyone.

 

Mefford ——

Marti Miers Mefford serves as a social worker for the county of Arlington, Va., and is the proud mom of Eli and Isaiah and the slightly less proud wife of Bill Mefford, AU’s Faith Organizer.

My mom was an elementary school teacher for 30 years, so I know firsthand the dedication and hard work that goes into teaching. I have never once questioned if my kids should go to public school; that was just a given. From the time my kids started school in Arlington, Va., I loved the diversity of their classes and school as a whole. My sons’ school had dozens of languages spoken since their classmates came from all over the world and they learned about their cultures as their friendships developed. Our public school experience has been amazing. Their schools have all been filled with dedicated and compassionate teachers. Their love for children and the process of learning has been outstanding. They pour their hearts into our sons’ educations and they truly care about them as students. I am a proud public school mom.

 

Hoover ——

JoLisa Hoover is a fourth grade teacher at Reed Elementary in Leander ISD northwest of Austin, Texas. JoLisa is a Texas Teach Plus Policy Fellow and a former U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

As a Texas public school teacher since 1992 and a product of Texas public schools, I’ve heard many varieties of the greetings parents tell their children as they drop them off to school. As I ponder how best to support public schools, I find wisdom in the morning drop off phrase, “Listen to your teachers.”  

Listen to your teachers – when they raise their teacher voice to speak up about inequities in funding, school safety or their own school benefits. Listen to your teachers – to which candidates support fully funding public schools and listen to your teachers who taught you that voting is a civic duty. Listen to  your teachers – to the lessons teachers taught you about equity. Realize that every school in your community should be good enough for your child and remember that teachers taught you to treat others the way you want to be treated. Listen to your teachers – who taught you the value in getting to know someone who is different than you and taught you why you should never judge a book by its cover. Listen to your teachers – and treat them as experts in kids, because they are.

 

Brooks ——

Alayna Brooks is a pastor’s wife and mom to six biological and adopted kids and to many more foster children in Midland, Texas.

Public schools are very important –they're the basis of the American way of life. They're the great leveler of society – the poor and rich are together, both are able to get a quality education. Today public schools are a place where kids can have an adult who knows them and cares about them, where they are fed both food and knowledge.

Through my children I am involved in public schools through the PTA – raising money for new equipment for the school, helping the teachers feel appreciated and supported, planning motivation parties. I also volunteer with the booster club for sports teams and the band and choir, and drive on field trips. Through our church we are involved in a school by mentoring at risk students by meeting with a small group of students once a week and checking on their grades like a parent would, tutoring kids, and providing coats and school supplies to kids who need it. We are about to meet with a group of people to brainstorm ideas of more ways we can support the public schools here.

 

Hernandez ——

Julio Hernandez passionately supports movements that consider the immigrant community. He serves at BUGATA as well as a student at Duke Divinity School and as a technology personal trainer.

My parents came for El Salvador. They valued community involvement. My father volunteered at a community center and we grew up in public schools. My kids are in public school. This gives them the opportunity to make friends in a diverse community. Also, my wife is a public-school teacher. She genuinely loves teaching. We as a family spend more time in school than we do at home. My mother when she was alive was a school liaison. She helped new immigrant families through the transition into American life, not just school. My father was a painter in the school system. I used to teach as well.

As Christians … if we are clustered within our own selective community, then we cannot be in the world. … What if we as Christians can embrace public schools? Are we seeking the best for not just our own children but also our community? How can we love our neighbor better?


We'd love to hear your stories too! Tell us why you support public schools and we may post it on social media this week or share it on our blog.