Today marks the start of Public Schools Week, a time to celebrate America’s public schools and renew our commitment to a system that educates 90 percent of our nation’s children.
Unlike private and religious institutions, public schools accept all students. It doesn’t matter what religion, if any, a child has. It doesn’t matter if the student’s family is rich, poor or middle class. It doesn’t matter if the student is a member of the LGBTQ community. It doesn’t matter if the child has special needs or speaks English as a second language.
Educating millions of youngsters is a mammoth undertaking, and our public schools must have support to do it right. Unfortunately, the Trump-Pence administration isn’t interested in helping public schools. Backed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a longtime voucher booster, this administration wants to siphon money away from public schools and into the coffers of private institutions.
Earlier this month, DeVos announced support for legislation backed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) that would create a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for individuals and corporations contributing to organizations set up to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools.
Trump has also inserted this tax credit voucher plan into his 2020 budget, at a staggering cost of $50 billion over 10 years. Trump also proposes doubling spending for the federally funded Washington, D.C., voucher plan – even though studies have shown that it doesn’t work.
We know that public education in America isn’t perfect. Some systems are plagued by lack of funds and support. The answer to that isn’t to withdraw even more support – it’s to recommit to public education and do what it takes to make the system work for everyone. Vouchers, tax credits and other schemes that divert money away from public schools threaten that goal. That’s why growing numbers of Americans are standing up to these boondoggles – and, as we’ve seen recently in Arizona and West Virginia, teachers are leading the way.
Please speak up for public education this week – and begin by arming yourself with some facts about the threat vouchers present. The website of the National Coalition for Public Education, a group Americans United co-chairs, is a great place to start.
Also, Americans United will be issuing special tweets in honor of Public Schools Week featuring reflections by members of our staff, so keep an eye on our Twitter feed and help us spread the word by retweeting.
P.S. You can also let your members of Congress know that you support awarding public funds only to public schools. Visit this link to learn more.