Public education used to be, you know, public, as in: An essential societal investment for the betterment of all, paid for by all through school taxes.
In addition to privatization schemes to turn education over to corporate profiteers, public schools themselves have steadily been perverting the idea of free education into one of “fee education.” This is a product of the budget slashing frenzy imposed on our schools in the past 15 years or so by Koch-headed, anti-public ideologues and unimaginative, acquiescent education officials.
Beset by budget cuts, too many school systems are accommodating the slashers by shifting the cost of educating America’s future from the general society to the parents of students who’re presently enrolled. Want to play a sport, take a class trip to a museum or participate in a debate tournament? Pay a fee. Want art, music, drama or other cultural courses? Pay a fee. Need a uniform? Pay a fee.
And now comes a new level of monetizing public education: The ubiquitous yellow school bus. Yes, just getting to and from school is increasingly being treated not as a necessary public service, but as a private “luxury” to be billed to the families of students. Districts in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Texas and elsewhere are charging around $400 a year per child. For the poor and the downwardly-mobile middle class that’s a real hit, yet another barrier to educational access for America’s majority. What’s next; a daily debitcard deduction for kids to enter a classroom?
If our society won’t even pay for bus rides, how’re we going to get to the future we want for our children? It’s time to reject the small-minded budget-slashers, reinvest fully in public education and get America moving again.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.