When voter support for public schools is lukewarm, quality schools and professional-level pay for teachers don’t make it to the top of the priority list for funding. Conversely, in communities where there are many young parents with kids in school, there’s more motivation to do as well by those children as possible. I suggest there are three reasons why we see weak support for American public schools in many communities.
- We have an aging population. As a higher percentage of taxpayers reach retirement, not only does their regular income tend to shrink, they have less interest in paying for good schools. Their kids are grown, and likely their grandchildren live in another community or district.
- People who have the most money to contribute in property taxes tend to send their kids to private schools, local or away. They have no skin in the game.
- Sometimes schools get blamed for whatever is wrong with society. The Swedish philosopher and social change activist Tomas Björkman had this to say about the anger felt by many who see their hopes for a better life for themselves and their children slipping away.
As globalization and technological development strip the middle- and lower classes of their jobs and paths to prosperity, people lose their hopes and quickly their savings too if they ever had any. They suffer anxiety and will eventually get angry, and they will search for simple answers and seek whatever sense of security and belonging they can find, even if it is meaning-making at an insufficient level of complexity. Or in plain English: people will be homesick for simple solutions and will vote for whoever promises them the level of complexity that makes sense to them. Typically in the form of national chauvinism. This has happened before and it is incredibly dangerous.
What Björkman could have added is that with anger comes a propensity to blame, and blaming is easier than really coming to terms with an increasingly complex and challenging world.
Isn’t it possible that making schools more community-connected through Whole Child Education is one way to build local support for our schools?