The Students' Bill of Rights
Every stakeholder in our public schools matters and everyone deserves respect and consideration. But students must always come first. A student-focused lens should be applied to all decisions made in our education system: how is this decision helping our students succeed?
The facts are clear, students who come from families where parents have middle-class jobs do better than students whose parents are struggling economically. Economic equality creates educational equality – because it gives parents more time to engage with their children, puts children under less stress AND because when we grow together fairly we grow our tax base, meaning more money for schools.
Proposition 98 is the floor, not the ceiling. We are still far, far behind other states in educational spending. The Proposition 98 spending formulas are being used as a maximum allotment. That was never the intent. Prop. 98 created a minimum of spending, not a maximum.
New funding rules that require more equality in our schools are only a help if the money is spent on kids, not bureaucracy. We need to invest these new funds in better trained and better compensated teachers and other ways that impact the students who need the most help to succeed.
Wealthy families can choose to move to high-performing school districts, or pay for private school tuition. Poor families also deserve the right to access high-quality schools and publicly chartered schools often provide that access. High-performing public charters playing by the same set of rules as other public schools are laboratories for innovation and creativity; our low-income families should be empowered to be able to choose the school that makes sense for their children.
Teachers are not the problem—well-paid and professionally-trained teachers are a solution. We need to invest in more professional training, continuing professional development and tenure reform. Providing opportunities for our teachers to work at least three years under training and supervision and other common-sense reforms will make our teachers better trained and better supported.
Principals, parents, teachers, elected leaders, the entire community and students are all responsible for success. We can’t point fingers at each other. We need to understand we are ALL responsible for educational equality and student success.
The reality is that succeeding in schools is dramatically affected by neo-natal care, childhood nutrition, childhood healthcare and other basic services. Access to quality child care and early education can ensure that every student has a healthy start in life.
Housing is a recognized educational rights issue. We have too many homeless kids in our schools and too many parents who must work two and three jobs to pay for skyrocketing housing costs, meaning they don’t have enough time to support their children. Affordable housing creates opportunities for greater student achievement.
Nutrition programs must extend beyond the school day and school year. Children who are hungry at night or over the summer can’t keep up.
To give our kids a chance to succeed in public school, they need to be secure and safe in school, and coming and going to school. A focus on safety does not need to, and should not, criminalize students. They must be free to think and learn without fear and trauma.
Graduating from high school is a start – not a finish. We need to make sure our schools lay out a clear path for higher education or other post-secondary career and technical education as a part of our curriculum, requirements and culture.