Every doctor, statesman, and scientist got their start somewhere. In the course of their education, they were inspired and empowered to pursue a dream that allowed them to live a fulfilled life and contribute to the world the next generation would inherit. That story plays out each day for the 50 million students who attend American public schools. We celebrate that story February 24–28, during Public Schools Week.
Our nation’s founders knew that our democracy could thrive only with an educated populace. That belief remains as true today as it was more than 200 years ago. But along the way, we learned that education is so much more. Education is the currency that buys freedom—freedom from ignorance, freedom from oppression, freedom from the conditions of poverty. Public education makes that freedom available not just to some—not just to those who qualify for it or who can afford it—but to all. Our public schools commit to providing a safe and welcoming environment in which students can be their authentic selves and fulfill their greatest potential. Our public schools and the principals who lead them make that promise to each student, regardless of race, income level, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other feature that might push students to the margins. We embrace our accountability to the local communities our students will soon enter and someday lead.
Yes, the institution of public education is imperfect. Sixty-five years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, schools in many areas remain segregated and far from equal. Funding disparities persist, and we have yet to find the magic formula for helping students overcome the daily effects of poverty and trauma that impede their learning. So, while we have many accomplishments to celebrate, let’s use this year’s Public Schools Week to rally support for the hard work that remains. The success of our students, our nation’s prosperity, and our democracy depend on it.
Executive Director, NASSP