School choice alone will not yield better results

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Rep. Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, (guest column in the Jan. 23 Journal) on how to fix the education system in New Mexico shows a lack of understanding of the real issues facing our state, our students, and our teachers. .

The idea that school choice will solve our problems is wrong for two main reasons. The first is that it does not really deal with the fundamental questions of education. We know from other states that have open enrollment, vouchers for private schools, and charter schools that they don’t inherently increase student achievement. If we’ve learned anything from the debacle that was No Child Left Behind, it’s that cutting funding for struggling schools doesn’t actually help them; it only makes the problems worse.

The second reason school choice doesn’t solve any of our problems is that unless the Rep plans to open multiple private and charter schools in every city and town in New Mexico, there is no just not enough of these schools to be effective. This proposal will hurt our rural schools and do absolutely nothing to help our students or our teachers. The rep wants to apply a business solution to a societal problem, and anyone with insight into education knows that won’t work. The rep’s advocacy does nothing to address the problems of inequity in funding, it does nothing to address the lack of trained teachers and paraprofessionals, and most importantly, it ignores the vast amount of research that tells us how to fix really the problem.

In order to fix our schools, we have to admit something that we are all reluctant to address: it is our society that is broken. Schools must act as all-in-one environments where teachers must be healers, educators, counselors, parents, confidants, and so many different roles that they cannot focus on just one. If we really want to fix our schools, we need to fix our society in a way that really helps those in need. It keeps our rural hospitals open, it makes sure students and parents can get the medical services they need, it changes the whole discussion about who we are and what we want for our children.

Finally, I challenge the rep to have an open and honest discussion with teachers in a forum that is publicly posted. If the representative really cares about our school system, it only makes sense that he is willing to do so. Otherwise, he’s just trying to score political points on the backs of our students, and this professor and my students have absolutely no time for that level of nonsense.

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