What Are Public Schools For?

Of course we followed with interest as the local School District leadership—paid and elected—recently struggled with budget cuts and related angst over the implications.  At this point we take no position on the specifics—but empathize with everyone—not too long ago we went through an agonizing budget exercise that ultimately resulted in one full-time position being cut and some of our program coordinators not getting the funds they wanted to serve kids.

 

All that said we must accept the fact that the Green Bay School District can’t be all things to all people—especially when one considers worsening economic times in general and the increasing challenges at hand here—quite probably more difficult decisions lay ahead.  We could talk all day about state funding formulas, the ‘fools gold’ of stimulus bill windfalls, federal grants and new revenue stream opportunities—all relevant topics in this context—but the fundamental question really is ‘what should a public school system do for its students?’ and how do we design/pay for a delivery system to get those things accomplished?  On top of everything else, what are the measurable benchmarks that we’ll use to determine success?

 

Just days ago Education Secretary Arne Duncan seemed to advocate for a much longer school experience while in Denver—he said our ‘school days are too short, our school week is too short and our school year is too short’ among other things—he also praised the local approach to public education that features school autonomy and a pay-for-performance system.  Again, we’re not endorsing or opposing these remarks or the strategies being implemented in Denver, but they do provide food for thought.  After all, answering the fundamental question should drive master planning, budgeting and evaluation…so just ‘what are public schools for?” Comments anyone?

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