“Free people are not equal. Equal people are not free.”
We all desire equality. But equality in opportunity does not equate equal outcomes. Basic equality should be defined as equal worth, value, opportunity, fairness and a level playing field. From our very own Declaration of Independence we read:
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
When we embrace this concept of equality as equal significance yet shout the accolades of diversity, we seem to be embracing fundamental opposing realities. In most of our public schools we hear the resounding mantras of both ideas; equality and diversity, yet we are left with a huge confusing paradigm.
I am the mom of five beautiful, uniquely diverse children. Each on has equal worth and is equally valued as my child, yet each child has unique strengths, talents, as well as weakness and inaptitude’s. Each of my children was given equal opportunities to succeed; but these opportunities were not identical in nature for each child. Taking into consideration each of their particular skill sets, learning styles and interests we chose a variety of paths to help them succeed. However, our public education system wants the teaching standards and curriculum to fit all students in the same manner. Public education puts all children in the same mold.
There is also another huge gaping hole in our “equitable” public education: funding. The School funding formula is a combination of federal, state, and local dollars. Things get complicated with these formulas even though they are designed to safeguard adequate funding across all public schools. Education funding formulas create much debate, confusion and controversy. Yet, no matter how “fair” or “equitable” the formula tries to be, many schools are underfunded, our education dollars are massive and the outcomes per dollar spent are dismal.
In my opinion, (and bright researchers have documented this for 30+ years) equality in education should mean equal access to quality schools NOT equally identical schools. Students, parents, and communities, all have diverse and unique needs and ideologies. Students have equal value yet diverse needs, and a one-size-fits-all model cripples our educational system. We want to graduate strong citizens who choose a variety of career paths, from brain surgeons to auto mechanics; school teachers to assembly line workers; stay-at-home parents to farmers; each contributing to the welfare of their neighborhoods and communities.
School choice provides the greatest way to provide quality schools for the advancement and equality of all Missouri students educational needs. Whether you child is college bound or preparing for the workforce, equal access to a quality education is vital to our state. So why does it seem that no matter what benefits ESA’s and charter schools provide children who are fortunate to have access to them, the education establishment will oppose them? Opposing the equality they champion within their system.
During National Charter School week, I would once again champion for equality in education that embraces diversity in design. The choices we offer Missouri families should be quality schools that are unique in their approach and styles, yet provide equal access to quality education.