FREE UNIVERSAL PUBLIC EDUCATION: PRE-K TO HIGHER EDUCATION & CANCELLATION OF STUDENT LOAN DEBT
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Free public education is the bedrock of a democracy. There are over 98 thousand public schools in the United States. The closing of these schools, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that public schools serve many functions. They provide structure for learning. They maintain counseling services, arts, sports, after school programs, food services, critical support for working parents, and socialization opportunities. Some schools accomplish this mission well. Some fall short.
Globally, US students lag behind other countries in academic performance. In a recent survey of 57 countries, the US scored near the middle of those surveyed. In addition, among industrialized nations, the US has one of the largest gaps between high and low performing students. Recent teacher strikes across the country have highlighted their low salaries, poorly funded programs, crumbling school buildings and limited school supplies. Underfunded schools mean smaller staffs, larger classroom sizes, fewer programs and diminished resources for students. Yet, school systems are expected to prepare a diverse student population with the knowledge and skills necessary for the 21st century.
We call for increased federal funding for public schools. We must end public funding for profit making charter schools and for the student voucher systems for private schools. Charter schools, established in 1992, were originally set-up to be laboratory schools for the public sector. They have morphed into the “savior” of public education and are extracting monies from the public education budget. Re-establishing their original purpose would return the monies taken from the education budget and allow the return of many enrichment programs, such as music, art, and sports.
Underfunded schools equal underserved students. Schools must have the resources they need to meet the challenges of a constantly changing world. A just society must have federal and local governments that work together to make sure our schools, our teachers and our children thrive.
Our public primary and secondary schools prepare students for college and the workforce in a world that, today, is shifting beneath their feet. College is a necessity for further study in a wide range of subjects and for entry into many careers. College graduates are more likely than non-graduates to have: career growth, continued employment, job satisfaction, higher salaries, and flexibility in the workforce. A college education equips students with the skills and knowledge to become independent adults, committed to working for a just and fair world.
We call for tuition-free state and city colleges and universities. All students should be able to attend college without regard to ability to pay. In the 20th century, many state and city-run colleges were free for all residents who graduated from high school. We can surely manage this great achievement again.
We also call for canceling student loan debt. Student debt is currently at $1.52 trillion dollars, making it the second largest debt category in the US. Paying off student loans has become impossible for many people, who are drowning under the financial burden of the high cost of housing, raising a family, and uncertain employment and wages.
Tuition-free, debt-free college education should be part of our commitment to public education for all. Our youth are the leaders of tomorrow.