Public education serves 9 out of 10 students enrolled in schools—that amounts to 50.8 million students. Then, factor in 3.2 million teachers and hundreds of thousands of specialists, administrators, and support staff, and you get a powerful force in the learning landscape.
As principals, you are well aware of the fact that public schools educate every child who walks through the doors, regardless of race, ability, special needs, country of origin, religion, or any other factor that would impact their learning. We meet them at their level and educate them to their highest potential. And public schools not only provide a safe place for learning, they also bring people together—which is why we need communities to support their local public schools.
We see public education as the foundation of our nation’s future. From an economic standpoint, public schools are responsible for providing talented professionals for jobs in the corporate and public sectors as well as the military. In our ongoing work with representatives of the business community and corporate supporters, the Learning First Alliance (LFA) has seen the need for stronger ties between schools and businesses and more interaction to help bring real-world ideas and examples to students and teachers.
LFA represents more than 10 million educators, parents, and school board members collectively through its 12 member organizations, including NASSP. We work with lawmakers from all parties and beliefs to strengthen and improve our schools. For the third year, LFA will host Public Schools Week, February 24–28. This annual event brings together a broad range of educators, parents, policymakers, businesses, and community members to showcase the success of our public education system as well as its potential. As part of this event, we’re asking principals and other leaders to invite their community members, lawmakers, parents, and others to visit the school and see the wide array of programs and high-quality opportunities offered, honor students’ accomplishments, and experience the joys and challenges of teaching and learning in public schools.
At the heart of this year’s event is the Pledge for Public Schools. We are asking you and the people in your community to go to www.publicschoolproud.org and sign the pledge to support local schools, students, and staff through community involvement, budgets and bonds, volunteering, and simply getting to know school leaders and the schools they serve.
We also hope that you will hold a celebratory event during Public Schools Week 2020 to mark the occasion and help your local communities see your hard work firsthand as you highlight the great things happening in your school each day. Last year we saw schools host book drives, visits from local lawmakers, and teacher luncheons. If you are willing to host an event, register at www.publicschoolsweek2020.org, and share the details on social media using #PublicSchoolProud, #PSW20, and #PublicSchoolsWeek2020. We would also love to see your photos!
Challenging Negative Attitudes
During Public Schools Week 2020, lawmakers from both parties will bring forward resolutions on Capitol Hill recognizing the event, and our affiliates across the country are working with state legislators to pass similar resolutions that will share the spirit of public schools. LFA wants Public Schools Week 2020—and its activities—to challenge negative assumptions. It’s an ideal venue for anyone who is questioning the value of public schools.
In recent years, we’ve seen a growing awareness of the threats to public schools through privatization and lack of funds and other supports. In some states we are seeing educators going on strike to assert their rights and showcase their working conditions to the public at large. With the upcoming national elections in 2020, we anticipate more educators will step up to advocate for their schools and their students, and Public Schools Week 2020 will give them the tools they need to highlight their strengths.
Public Education Is the Foundation of the Future
The 2019 PDK Poll Report of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools continued to show the public’s faith in schools, as well as strong and growing support for school staff, school funding, and adequate working conditions. In 2019, 76 percent of parents gave an A or B grade to their own child’s school, up from 70 percent the prior year.
Think about your community and the ways that it might support your school; step back and look at all you do for your students and how your schools and staff improve the surrounding community. There are so many ways we can show community members what public schools have to offer and encourage them to get involved and support their schools and students.
LFA provides ideas for ways that businesses and community organizations can support their local schools in its recent Community in Education: Bringing Businesses and Schools Together report.
We’re asking all principals and interested supporters to go to www.publicschoolsweek2020.org and use the LFA tool kit for practical messages, template letters to community members and parents, social media prompts, and graphic elements to save time and help you promote your school.
We must continue to remind our communities about the importance of public schools and the integral role public education plays in providing for the future of our students, ourselves, and our country. We look forward to celebrating with you!
Richard M. Long is executive director of the Learning First Alliance in Alexandria, VA.
Sidebar: Get Ready
Take these three steps to get ready for Public Schools Week 2020:
- Look at your school calendar—see whether there is an event this winter that you could tie to Public Schools Week 2020. Something held February 24–28 is ideal but not required.
- Tell people about taking the pledge—point them to the information on the website.
- Help teachers, parents, administrators, counselors, and fellow principals celebrate all that they do by giving some small token of recognition to your staff and supporters.