The Corner

Education

Arlington’s Public-School System

(maroke/Getty Images)

When it comes to public schools, this pandemic has made one thing quite obvious: Many in the public-school system have lost sight of the fact that their main goal is to educate children. Employing teachers, bus drivers, or others, and even distributing school lunches to low-income kids, is not what’s it about, even though they are all nice byproducts.

When you lose sight of this, you get a system that treats educating children as a byproduct of serving its employees. Unfortunately for Arlington public-schools kids, and many others, that’s the situation we are in. Though the teachers have been prioritized for vaccination — so that they could then safely return to school — as of May 7, only 39 percent say they preferred in-person instruction. I wonder in which private sector, where staying home inevitably produces subpar work outcomes, this would be tolerated.


Incidentally, Arlington also just announced the following:

Despite having offered financial incentives to teachers to teach summer school, there are fewer applicants than the number of students who are eligible for summer instruction at the elementary level, making it impossible for APS to offer summer strengthening support to all eligible elementary students. Summer School is optional for teachers, and previous communication about the program indicated that final enrollment is contingent upon staffing.

As a result, they will offer some summer-school education for a subset of children. This is the sign of a bad system. It seems crazy to me that they would not figure out a way to serve the children, especially after having reduced instruction so dramatically for over a year. Maybe pay the teachers more, or hire substitutes and cut spending elsewhere?

Unfortunately, we Arlington taxpayers are assumed to have no say in the matter. The superintendent probably thinks that parents will read the news and accept it without a fight. And many parents do. However, some parents have been fighting the system for over a year, while others have hired tutors or left the public-school system altogether. In fact, Arlington has been bleeding students, as 2,000 have left permanently in the last year alone — roughly 7 percent of the already-small school district.

But not everyone has this luxury. Many parents are captive in a school system that takes them for granted and does not make their kids its priority. If this is not a strong case for school choice, I don’t know what is.

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