Letter to the Editor: School Board Should Advocate for Public Education:
- On Our Radar
- Published on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 16:01
- Joanne Wallenstein
This letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Harriet Sobol. At the January 9th school board meeting a few Board members spoke strongly in favor of sending a letter to our US Senators asking them not to support Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. A few others spoke about not doing so. Betsy DeVos has been confirmed Secretary Of Education so whether or not to support her confirmation is no longer a question. Nevertheless I would like to respond to the board discussion that I watched at home.
I was pleased to hear those who spoke for advocacy against Betsy DeVos's confirmation as Secretary of Education noting her lack of experience and knowledge about public education. At the same time, I was puzzled by some of the reasons given by other Board members not to advocate. I wish the discussion had gone on longer so I might understand their reasons. One Board member mentioned it would be a waste of Board time to draft a letter. In my opinion, it's never a "waste of time" to express concern about a possible danger to public education, particularly if you're a school board member. Another Board member thought it was inappropriate for the Board to address the nomination. I can't imagine who would be more appropriate to advocate against an unsuitable Secretary of Education nomination than a public school board member.
I also was concerned to hear from one Board member that things are fine in Scarsdale so therefore this is not Scarsdale's fight. Advocacy for all kids is part of board members' job. School board members are the guardians of public education.
I'd like to read a passage from a letter to the Board about advocacy for public education from Mary Beth Evans, who couldn't be here.
"The non-partisan National School Boards Association considers all school boards to be 'advocates for local public education with other local state and federal governmental entities.' And the fate of the Scarsdale public school system is clearly tied to the fate of what public education means in America, including tuition-free education for all students regardless of race, religion national origin or ability; a system of school governance that ensures public accountability; and the teaching of common values and democratic principles."
I believe that it is not only our responsibility to advocate for other districts but it also is in our own self-interest. It's hard to predict what will come from the U.S. Department under someone who has no experience with US public education.
Sometimes in Scarsdale we get caught up with our internal problems and don't recognize outside dangers. It took a while for many of us to see the threats of over-testing and APPR from Albany.