Why Public Education Matters

by Kathy Wilson, 8th grade mathematics teacher, Whitesboro Middle School, Whitesboro Independent School District

 As educators in American society today, we have to be able to defend our public education system and answer the question, “Why does public education matter?”

There are three important areas that support this often asked question. Public education can be seen as a legal issue, an economic issue, and a social issue.

Public schools allow an equal opportunity for students to meet compulsory education laws set forth by government. In the United States, as well as many other nations, students are required to attend school for a certain period of time. State law currently requires an education beginning with kindergarten and ending with the twelfth grade. The public school system is provided mainly by local governments with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. State governments can and do set minimum standards relating to almost all activities of primary and secondary schools. State governments also enact local school taxes to support the schools- primarily through property taxes. The federal government funds aid to states and school districts that meet minimum federal standards. Public education is non-selective in admitting all students within the geographical area that they serve. What better way to comply with the law than a free education in your own neighborhood?

Since all students are required by law to attend school, then our public education system is also creating citizens that will be serving the society to which they belong. A quote taken from American Public School Law (Alexander, 2012) states: “public schools are the governmental means of protecting the state from the consequences of an ignorant and incompetent citizenship.” All students- multi cultural, students with disabilities, students with physical handicaps, etc. – need to be taught the necessary academic and vocational skills to be productive in a workforce and compete favorably in the job market. In addition to the home, a public education system is the one place that all students can get those required skills that prepare them for life beyond secondary school. Because public school is free and equal to all, no one group of students should have an economic advantage over others. The youth of our society will be making important decisions that will affect all of us someday and therefore we should want them to be educated in a manner that has some control over what is being learned.

Public education also serves as a unifying social force among our varied population. Today’s rapidly changing student demographics reflect those of our U.S. society. Public education is now responsible for preparing young people to live in a nation that is increasingly culturally diverse and a world that is dynamically interconnected. The public education system teaches students to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage. The public schools bring together members of different racial and cultural groups and help them learn about each other’s backgrounds, languages, social customs, etc. and teach them to live together in harmony.

A child’s right to an adequate education is a fundamental one under our government. Public schools are free and open to all on equal terms and allow students to fulfill their fundamental right. When we as U.S. citizens support our public education system, we are investing in the economic and social wellbeing of our society. An education provides students the opportunity to participate fully in the economic
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