I want to share two articles that mark the state of our nation and highlight the significant distance we still have to travel to recover the strength that America built through its public education system.
In the first, a group of very private donors in Kalamazoo, Michigan, have established a program called The Promise that provides scholarship funds to every graduating high school student. Their efforts have put a sharp point on the need to support every child in achieving their dreams. The angels of The Promise have put their money where their mouths are and, in doing so, are raising up the school district and their community. Parents weep at the idea that college may be affordable for their children. We should weep that we lack the leadership to ensure that every child can get the education they need for success.
In the second, Alex Kotlowitz documents and opines on the situation in Chicago where “87 percent of public school students come from low-income families”. Even the best teachers will struggle to teach kids who bring empty stomachs and lunch pails to school while carrying a heavy load of household stress and neighborhood strife heaped onto their little shoulders. We all need to remember, too, that great students don’t begin at kindergarten; they begin in the womb and in homes that are safe, supportive, and offer enriching environments. So we need to support programs that give homes and parents (especially young mothers) the resources necessary to give children the best start.
Whether it’s funds for prenatal and early childhood education or funds for college or other post-secondary education, these funds pale in comparison to the burden America faces for poorly performing citizens. We need to think about the long-term impacts of our short-term decisions on taxes and benefits and remember that America didn’t become great based on a whim or passing thought. It took real vision and sustained focus, deeply tied to education.