Years ago I ran across this political cartoon by David Fitzsimmons, published in the Arizona Daily Star. At the time, I remember thinking “This guy gets it.” The “it” being public education. I wrote him a quick note and asked for permission to use his work in a blog post. He gave me his blessing and sent me a digital original.
That was a little over six years ago, and sadly, not much has changed. In fact, I could add a few desks to the seating chart. Refugee, suicidal, multiple adverse childhood experiences, emotional disability, below grade level, way below grade level, anger issues, hunger…and the list could go on.
Here’s the deal. As it should be, public education serves ALL students. We are the emergency room of schools — no one is turned away. The problem is that we keep adding responsibilities to our public schools and teachers without a commensurate increase in resources. In fact, we have put public school districts in the unenviable position of having to compete with charter and private schools to retain students (and thus funding). The unintended consequence is that schools in low socioeconomic areas experience an equity gap in funding, resources, and access.
I am reasonably certain that Mr. Fitzsimmons intended his cartoon as a dramatization of what public educators face daily. However, I am telling you that his seating chart is eerily accurate concerning what my staff members address daily. Don’t believe me? Come visit. I can tell you true stories that you wouldn’t believe. If you aren’t willing to spend time on our campus, please don’t pretend that you know what is best for our students.
It makes sense that schools are an appropriate place to address many of our social ills. However, if that is what is expected, it’s time to step up to the plate and provide the resources needed to make that happen. Failure to do so is disheartening and leads to educational burn-out. Fair is not equal.
The alternative is to leave kids behind — to write them off at twelve and thirteen years old. Is that where we are as a society? To do so is to admit that some lives matter more than others. I hope that’s not where we are at.