One question we regularly get is: Where should I begin? You should start right here, by arming yourself with the knowledge you need to understand the problem and fight back.
Below are links to resources for both public school families and private school families (because your child has different rights based on where he or she is enrolled), as well as some big picture information: links to curriculum options developed by education experts, an overview of some of the new terms and jargon that you’re probably hearing school officials use, and some recommended articles to help you get up to speed quickly.
We’ll be adding to these resources regularly, so please let us know if we’ve missed something – we’re happy to add to this list!
Since public schools are funded by federal, state, and local governments, the government has a say in how they are run — including curriculum and hiring. Public schools are state actors who must follow federal guidelines, including the U.S. Constitution, and uphold federal anti-discrimination laws.
Traditional public schools must accept all students; these students are assigned to schools based on where they live.
Charter schools are funded with tax dollars, much like traditional public schools. However, charter schools often do not fall within the jurisdiction of local public school districts and often have greater freedom to determine their operations and hiring. Depending on where they are located, charter schools may fall within or outside educational oversight by the state.
Magnet schools are public schools that offer specialized instruction (for example, in math & science, or the arts). Like charter schools and traditional public schools, they are taxpayer funded. Magnet schools are often selective, admitting students either through a competitive application process or a lottery.
Unlike public schools, private schools are usually not state actors — meaning they’re not subject to all of the regulations that govern public schools, including the U.S. Constitution.
Private schools are considered private actors and are able to set their own criteria both for admitting students and for running the school itself. They have more flexibility when making hiring decisions, curricular choices, and administrative decisions.
But private schools are not completely immune. They are usually subject to state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and sex, and they may be subject to various federal laws if they accept federal funding.
The Big Picture
Knowledge is power. If you walk into a meeting confident that you know what you’re talking about, you’ll be more effective. Below are some resources that might be helpful as you think through these issues and how you might want to engage.
In addition, other topics you might want to research for your specific school include:
- Budget: How much is being spent on specific programs/curriculum? Were any outside consultants brought in, for what reason, and at what cost? Do you believe that these resources might have been better spent elsewhere to benefit needy students? Where?
- Education quality: How does your school perform? What percentage of children read at grade level? How about math and other subjects? How does that compare with your city/state/national statistics? If your school isn’t a top performer, is it really smart to direct time and resources away from basic learning?
- Public Opinion: Has your school collected any feedback about its programming? If so, was it anonymous? If not, those results are probably inaccurate, seeing as a majority of Americans self-censor on controversial subjects out of fear.