Champions for Children and Public Education


The Advocate, October 2014
Dan Domenech, executive director
AASA, The School Superintendents Association

By now, you may have seen my “Champions for Children and Public Education” presentation or its accompanying PowerPoint on AASA's website.

AASA is attempting to counter the relentless criticism against public education that often comes from groups that, at best, seem ignorant of the facts or, at worst, are in pursuit of financial gains. In “Champions,” we present the very benchmarks that are used to hold educators accountable to show that public education in America today is the best that it’s ever been.

These benchmarks range from the highest NAEP scores in reading and math in fourth and eighth grade levels to the lowest dropout rate, the highest graduation rate, the highest college-going rate and more. We also use the Gallup Poll, which shows that parents who have children attending public schools have given their schools the highest ratings ever.

In Pennsylvania, Jim Buckheit, executive director of PASA, our state affiliate, has developed a similar presentation using state-level data. Meanwhile, Amy Sichel, AASA immediate past-president, added a third component by using district-level data from her district, Abington Schools.

Public educators lack the financial resources of organizations like ALEC but we do have access to grass roots support. The “Champions for Children” initiative encourages you to realize that an effective campaign against the current attack against our public schools begins at the local level.

We need to take advantage of the support that our schools receive from the parents and residents in the communities they serve. Bear in mind that in the Gallup Poll results, the low numbers come when the public is asked to rate public schools in general—not the public schools in their own communities. As I often say, “To know your school is to love it.” We encourage you to do what Amy and Jim are doing in Pennsylvania and tell the story of the success of your schools and your state.

Let us also recognize the effect poverty has in our country and acknowledge that what we are facing is an economic achievement gap. Communities ravaged by poverty lack the adequate resources to provide the quality education that all of our children deserve. This is where we must be champions for our children—by advocating on their behalf and insisting that equity is not ensuring that all children get the same thing, but rather that each child gets what he or she needs in order to succeed.

Start a campaign in your school district. Be a “Champion” for your children and for public education.