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Posted: 2018-11-08 15:24:22

November 4, 2018; Washington Post and the Atlantic

The future of public education was on the mind of many voters on Tuesday. Candidates for national, state, and local offices put their education programs front and center as they appealed for voter support. Statewide and local contests for education-related offices drew campaign donors well outside their direct constituencies. This high level of attention is the result of the ongoing debate about the future of public education, including how it should be organized and governed.

Years of struggle and billions of dollars have been invested. The differences are not solely about educational strategy, the nature of curriculum or teaching philosophy. A larger struggle is taking place about the core purpose of public education and its societal role.

For some, improvement will result from “creatively destroying” the traditional model of public education and replacing it with one that maximizes parental choice within an open education marketplace where private interests predominate. They see education as a very individual process, measured by each child’s progress. For others, the future must be built to honor the public’s shared interest in education, viewing schools and educational organizations as more than simply buildings for the delivery of educational services. They see education as a communal project that builds and supports the nation’s democratic ideals as they teach the ABC’s. Education’s relationship to the public, and how education is governed, are at stake.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris assert that “public governance of our schools matters for the health of our democracy. The public school was designed to serve and promote the common good; it is paid for by the public, and it belongs to the public, not entrepreneurs.”

From their perspective, the at-times messy work of elected school boards is a necessary component of schools remaining integral to the communities they serve.

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