A strong rationale for public education

Dennis Sparks

As a firm believer in the value of a strong system of public education staffed by well-prepared and supported career teachers, I think it is essential that school leaders be able to clearly articulate a rationale for public education, particularly during a time when it is under serious threat from powerful and well-financed interests.

Diane Ravitch has done a superb job of describing why public education is important and the threat posed to it by privatization. She writes:

“There are many reasons to object to privatization.

“One is that there is no evidence that privately managed firms that operate public services provide more efficient or less costly service. Another is that privately managed firms, when operating for profit, extract public dollars for investors that taxpayers intended for children, for educational programs that directly benefit children, for reduced class sizes, —and not to enrich shareholders. Privately managed nonprofits often pay salaries that would be unacceptable in the public sector. Privately managed firms tend to exclude the costliest clients to minimize their own costs, thus leaving the hardest cases for the less well funded public sector agency. And last, to destroy public education, which is so inextricably linked to our notions of democracy and citizenship would be an assault on the commonweal. Let us not forget that public education has been the instrument of the great social movements for more than the past half century–desegregation, gender equality, disability rights, and the assimilation of immigrants. Once it is gone, it is gone, and that would be a crime against ourselves.”

4 Responses to “A strong rationale for public education”


  1. 1 Deb January 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Dennis, you make a great point that education leaders should be able to clearly articulate the value of public education and it’s importance to our nation and common good! There are creative ways to deliver public education that leverage more technological resources now available, I believe. Like unions in Michigan will now have to articulate value, again, I agree that public education as a system of the whole, and a system unique to each community need to be clear about its value.

  2. 2 Rick Hamrick January 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    It is quite difficult for the average person to be calm, reasonable and rational when their very livelihood is threatened and professional integrity challenged by right-wing ideologues and powerful self-serving edupreneurs. Nonetheless, your point is well taken; that, in protecting and preserving the better elements of public education, we must all become adept at articulating the values of this essential public service. In so articulating, we must be cautious to avoid appearing self-serving and overly protective of the status quo, without admitting serious reform and reflection may be needed.

  3. 3 Kent Peterson January 24, 2013 at 11:59 am

    In the 1900s the massive “Common School” movement promoted the importance of public schools for all children so that the children of the rich and the children of the poor would work and learn together. Now there is a press to increasingly isolate people by class, race, and other differences. It seems more important than ever to have a truly public education.

  4. 4 Dennis Sparks January 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Yes… There seems to be little advocacy these days for the importance of the common school experience for the good of our democracy. In my view, our way of life is at peril if we allow it to slip away.


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