Don't blame the parents
Parents are one reason kids succeed, or don't, in school. But hardly the only one, an ACLU lawyer blogs this week (click here). The group recently filed suit against the Palm Beach County school district (see story here), pointing to anemic grad rates as proof the district isn't providing the high quality education required by the Florida Constitution.
What about personal responsibility?, asked Tallahassee Democrat columnist Bill Cotterell. "Government schools are like the Florida Turnpike – provided for everyone to use equally, but how far and how fast you go is, inevitably, up to you," he wrote here. "Whether you arrive in a sputtering 1978 Mazda with no windows and the exhaust pipe held on by a coat hanger, or a new Bentley, is something the government can't control."
In his response, the ACLU's David Blanding didn't riff on Cotterell's analogy (he could have said, "But what if the government helps steer students in those Mazdas off the Turnpike, by not ensuring them access to the same high-quality teachers as their peers in the Bentleys?") Instead, he cited a 19th century education reformer: "Horace Mann once proclaimed that ‘education … is the great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance-wheel of the social machinery.' If this is to remain true, our public schools must be responsive to the varying amounts of social capital and debt our children inherit."
The ACLU suit, which has attracted national interest, echoes a pending suit in Pinellas County. The International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement points to the mile-wide achievement gap between black and white students as proof the district is failing (see this St. Petersburg Times story). Don't accountability types make similar arguments about schools? Could it be that Jeb Bush, the ACLU and the Uhurus are all on the same page?
- Ron Matus, state education reporter