It is important that we all support public education. First of all, public school students far outnumber students who go to private schools. 49.5 million students attended public schools in the U.S. in 2021, as opposed to only 4.5 million in private schools. Unfortunately, despite the clear need for them, many public schools are overcrowded and underfunded, and thus often rely on student fundraising and low teacher salaries to make up the deficit. And worse, government funding for public schools is inconsistently placed. Low-income areas receive far less funding for public infrastructure than high-income areas, and as a result, their students are years behind in math and literacy test scores.
Yet, public schools are incredibly important in ensuring quality education reaches everyone. Public schools are free for all students, provide civic development to young citizens, and have higher levels of diversity than private schools. Public schools also provide free breakfast and lunch to low-income students, a place of safety and learning for children while parents work, enrichment opportunities such as sports and art classes, counseling services, and other essential resources to which students would otherwise not have access.
Pandemic closures disproportionately impacted students in public schools, as is evident in the resulting decreased attendance and test scores that are still evident years later. This is especially true of schools with a high percentage of low-income BIPOC students. The Achievement Gap among underserved students that has persisted for decades was dramatically widened during the pandemic due to a lack of resources. Now, more than ever, it’s important to support public education as it gets back on track to provide the assistance that students need to catch up. How can we improve the quality of our public schools while also giving staff and students the assistance they need? Read to find out.
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Public schools are often targeted with funding cuts, especially in the wake of bloated COVID-19 budgets. While many cities have attempted to assuage this by providing tax credits for students attending charter schools, these credits don’t cover the full cost of tuition and often take even more funding away from public schools. However, there are many ways to advocate for public schools as important institutions worthy of adequate state funding. For example, the National Education Association offers a portal on its website where concerned citizens can email their approval for education bills to senators, share personal stories to spread awareness about problems, or sign petitions to improve equity in schools.
For more local policy groups, there are many Illinois and Texas groups that encourage advocacy. In Houston, Children At Risk is an excellent organization that encourages volunteering, policy research, and hands-on work to improve the quality of public education for students. The Dallas Education Fund collects money to use for early learning and literacy initiatives. And the Chicago Education Advocacy Cooperative focuses its efforts on student and educator aid, as well as improving IEP and educational documentation. Any of these organizations would be an excellent starting point for local opportunities to connect and work alongside others who want to support public education.
The teacher shortage in America has become more dire since the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s easy to see why. Public school teachers often struggle with many challenges in their work, such as relatively low wages, long unpaid hours during school nights and summers, limited backing from the administration, and high student-to-teacher ratios. Factor in the growing gaps in student learning and resources that resulted from the lengthy school closures, and it’s no wonder that many teaching positions remain vacant and that most teachers still in the profession report high levels of stress and burnout.
Supporting public school teachers can come in many different forms. If you are a parent of a student, it may be helpful to simply collaborate with teachers about your child’s learning plans. For example, if your kid is struggling in math, you can discuss ways you can get involved to improve your child’s understanding of the material, such as giving extra learning assignments and assistance at home. Actions like these inspire a collaborative environment, which takes some of the burden off of the teacher and improves learning outcomes for the students. You could also donate or fundraise to purchase vital classroom supplies. Websites such as DonorsChoose help you find local public schools in need of resources.
For all citizens, voting for candidates that promise improvements to public education can be incredibly helpful. Schools in Chicago, for example, have seen significant pay increases for special education teachers and other valuable faculty members as a result of new policies. In some cases, you may have the opportunity to join a local teacher’s strike, speak as a community member at council meetings, or vote on referendums that give teachers access to health benefits and other perks. All of this can help the teachers in your school district get the pay, benefits, and assistance they need to teach students properly.
When public schools suffer, students are unfortunately among the first to suffer as well. You may have a student in your life who is struggling in the classroom and is having trouble getting the help they need.
One of the best things you can do is advocate for that student. Research shows that students who have academic support from adults have much greater chances of acquiring resources for learning difficulties, maintaining positive relationships with their peers and teachers, and reaching academic achievements. Make sure to be supportive – emotionally and mentally – of the youth in your life. Encourage them to take advantage of counseling services, school-based therapy groups, and mental health clubs. If you are in a position to, start a local club of your own geared towards assisting youth in need.
You can also tutor students in subjects they are struggling with or sign them up for local tutoring. Work with an organization like Educate. Radiate. Elevate. We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing no-cost tutoring to students from low-income families. Our services encourage academic excellence and also teach students soft skills such as organization and time management to help them thrive. Check out our article for advice on how to tutor effectively. We accept applications for volunteer or paid tutors – so apply to tutor today!
To support public education, it’s necessary to take a holistic approach, working to improve the public school system as a whole, in addition to uplifting the faculty and the students. Commit to making changes by advocating for better financial practices and student resources. Assist public school teachers by working collaboratively with them and even donating classroom materials. Help students by advocating for them or tutoring those who are struggling.
You can also advocate for organizations like Educate. Radiate. Elevate., which are dedicated to bridging gaps in learning among underserved students. Our highly-effective tutoring programs rely on donations from supporters and time from volunteers. You, too, can donate or volunteer to make a difference in the lives of our students!