Due diligence in providing quality education

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“The Senate just confirmed DeVos,” the young teacher said with disbelief staring at his phone.

In a room full of AP Language teachers who had assembled to improve our skill at scoring AP essays, there was silence. Being able to offer accurate, collegiate feedback to our students empowers them. We’d gathered in Gardendale from all over Alabama. Mostly, we’re experienced teachers always seeking improvement—from ourselves and our students.

With this newly confirmed businesswoman’s history of pulling money away from public schools, money that teachers stretch and strain—making every last penny count—we wonder if providing for our students’ needs will be possible with fewer resources.

In our diverse Pelham community, students often have what they need for school. Any student may sometimes struggle with basic needs. Financial hardship is equal-opportunity. Any family may experience unexpected job loss or illness. Because our community realizes this basic fact of life, all of our students seem more able to ask for needed assistance. Teachers look for field trip scholarships that may only be requested via email to protect privacy. We are a school community that takes care of each other.

DeVos speaks about competition in the education community. A parent certainly has the right to choose an alternate situation when needed. Our public school provides options to accommodate students who need unique options. There are a vast array of schedules, classes, clubs and activities; however, dividing resources will result in fewer opportunities.

Fewer than forty-eight hours after the DeVos confirmation, whisperings are heard that our Science in Motion van may be cut.  Science in Motion provides lab materials and assistance to high school science teachers and students. The van operates as a partnership between universities and high schools.

“Only rich kids will get to do labs,” one senior says. “Lab materials are too expensive for public school.”

The move towards corporate education with many for-profit companies involved may provide equalization. Seeking to satisfy investors, necessary labs may vanish from all schools.

Ultimately, dividing as competitors leads to weakness. Uniting as communities insisting on quality education provides our children opportunity.