The national debate about the future of American public education has landed in New Hampshire with full force. We have always seen our public schools as a community asset serving everyone. Now, more and more, there are those who argue it should really be everyone for her or himself – that we should replace our system of public schools with a marketplace of private choice in which each family constructs its own education system.
Our New Hampshire public schools have always served all “our kids,” as Harvard scholar and New Hampshire resident Professor Robert Putnam puts it. Our schools lead the country in student achievement and innovation. However, that commitment to high quality public education for all students may be changing. We may be on the road to replacing public education as we have known it with a system of publicly-funded individual parental choices.
There are many signs of this showing up at the New Hampshire Board of Education (here’s a backgrounder on how to communicate with the state board), in the Legislature and in local school board meetings, but they may not be easily visible or understandable from a distance. So ANHPE will promote as full a discussion and understanding of this contest of visions as possible so that people can weigh in knowledgeably. We will present the information as straightforwardly as possible in “top line” form, but will also drill down to understand the rest of the background when you might need it to take action.
We will present information factually but we are not neutral on the issue. New Hampshire has the opportunity to continue to invest in moving our schools from the industrial model we’ve inherited to what our students need to be prepared for family, civic and work life in the 21st century.
Or we can be moved, in big visible steps or smaller, incremental, less visible steps, toward an individualized, market based school choice system in which each parent is responsible to cobble together an education system for each child. This is a vision in which our district schools would become just one a la carte choice among many – an online software company, a voucher-funded private school or home school, a charter school or a traditional district school.
New Hampshire has a choice to make – neighborhood schools for “our kids” or an education marketplace in which every family is on its own. You can read about the great work our neighborhood schools are doing at Reaching Higher NH. Here at ANHPE, we will continue to support the diligent work our parents and education are doing, but our primary focus will to provide opportunities to weigh in on the school choice discussion that is so critical at this moment.