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Rethinking “Free” Education

I have come to the conclusion that the only way to true education reform is to remove the “free” from public education. In recent years I have had more and more students in my classroom who take the educational system in this country for granted, thinking that every possible effort, resource, tool, test, and allowance needs to be extended for them so that they can walk away with a high school diploma.  

Just this week I had a student show up in my art class who had been absent for weeks- and for no better reason than he didn ‘t feel like coming to school.  A special ed. student, he is already in his fifth year of high school without the possibility of graduating any time soon. Reason- lousy attendance. The amount of waste generated by this single student in terms of unfinished projects is astonishing. But every time he shows up I am supposed to supply him with new materials and take the time to bring him up to speed on the class projects. Our district also provides a myriad of make up programs, credit recovery programs, Saturday schools- to allow students the opportunity to make up lost time and credits. It is nearly impossible for any student NOT to graduate unless he or she really works hard at failing. The problem is, there are no consequences for failing anymore. Any student who falls behind in high school credits can use one of the quick academic recovery programs to recoup grades and credits.

As teachers, we are expected to provide make up work, extra help and “allowances” so these students never fail. The students are not being held accountable for their actions- and they won ‘t unless we hold their feet to the fire. Since grades, graduation and success are no longer motivating factors in education, maybe we should start charging for our services.  

Public education was designed to allow students access to a free education not guarantee them one. In the very least, schools should charge for any “recovery” program designed to allow students to make up lost time or work. Credit recovery programs cost school districts millions of dollars that could be better spent on the majority of students who demonstrate good attendance and put forth honest effort. We should also shift the truancy costs from schools and districts to parents and  students. With school budgets decimated it doesn ‘t make any sense to spend taxpayer dollars on students who continually disregard the educational opportunity set before them. Perhaps if they had to pay for their education, they wouldn ‘t be so quick to waste it. 

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