Some of my most cherished memories are of the time I have spent playing games with my eight grandchildren. One day I was playing a board game with our oldest granddaughter, Jordan, (now a mother herself) when she was about 3 years old. She had won the game. I congratulated her and started to clear the board. “No, Grandma,” she said. “You have to keep playing so you can win too.”
I remember that story often when I think about what schools should be about. Some children learn quickly and easily. But the game isn’t over when they have “won.” We are not finished until all students have won, too.
My current reading includes Diane Ravich’s book “Reign of Error.” I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the issues facing our public schools, how we got here and how we can fix our problems.
In her introduction, she argues against those who claim that the public schools are broken beyond repair and asserts that the privatization movement is draining students and funding from our public schools. Other important points she raises are:
• Testing in early grades should be used sparingly, not to rank students, but to help determine what they know and what they still need to learn.
• Only by eliminating opportunity gaps can we eliminate achievement gaps.
• What works are the opportunities that advantaged families provide for their children.
It is with the understanding that appropriate priorities and adequate funding are essential for quality schools that address the above issues that I share the following information that I have received from the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB).
Tax policy and its effect
on the school aid fund
Over 45 bills have been introduced since January in the House and Senate that would have a negative impact on the State Aid Fund (SAF). The cuts range from an indeterminate negligible amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. In May, MASB along with seven other organizations put out a memo to every legislator expressing concerns about cuts in revenue for the SAF. The memo stated in part:
“Many bills have been enacted that exempt various individuals, groups and businesses from paying certain taxes. Each one cuts funding for the School Aid Fund (SAF) — a little here and a little there. Our schools and children deserve adequate funding which can only be accomplished if the SAF receives the necessary revenue.
Many of these tax exemptions may on the surface appear to serve a good purpose. Taken as a whole, however, we are slowly but surely cutting significant amounts of much-needed revenue from our kids’ schools.”
Diane Ravich notes in her book that states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on testing and test preparation and districts are allocating significant portions of the school year preparing for state tests. This certainly raises concerns about our use of both money and time.
This column is written for the purpose of providing parents, educators and other citizens with information about the mission of their public schools. When appropriate, this information can also be used to communicate your concerns with your representative in the legislature, or to express your support or appreciation of their work.
Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.