Friday, December 12, 2014

Who wants those kids?

by Anne Duff

I see it coming. Universal vouchers. Competition among schools. Only the best will survive. Those schools that can’t make the grade will be closed. But what will happen to those students? Those students who contribute to the schools who receive “As” will be persuaded to stay at those schools…at least until they do poorly on a test or their attendance drops. But imagine those students who have special needs – those moderately and severely disabled students who are not on a diploma track but whose lack of graduation still counts against a school when they only receive a certificate of attendance. Who wants those kids? Or what about those English Language Learners who come to this country midyear and know no English but are required to take the ISTEP test only a few months later and have their scores averaged in with the rest for those schools letter grades? Who wants those kids? And those same students with their moderate and severe disabilities – let’s not forget that they still have to take the test…it doesn’t matter that they have never taken the classes that prepare them for the tests…and that they aren’t on a diploma track…they still test and have it count. Who wants that?

As a mother of 3 children, I have become acutely aware that stability has been one of the best things for my children. They don’t like change. They like the comfort of being with teachers they have grown to love, thrive on the long lasting friendships with children they’ve known since the age of 3, and enjoy the traditions year after year in the school they’ve attended since they were very young. But it seems our legislators have decided this wasn’t meant for all children. Those children who need stability the most will be moving from school to school to school because, frankly, who wants them? If competition and good letter grades keep a school open, and our new “universal voucher system” can pick and choose the most desirable students, as can our vouchers schools currently, then what will happen to those children who need extra help, who can’t speak English, who will never pass ISTEP, who will never receive a diploma? What ever happened to their constitutional right? “…provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”

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