The Red, White, and Blue of Public Education
Written by Dr. Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
Monday, July 09 2018

With all the constant chatter about red states and blue states, one could easily conclude that we are bitterly divided over just about everything.  Nevertheless, during this entire Fourth of July season, I have yet to see a single blue flag or red flag.  Old Glory flies as straight and true whether in front of Democrat’s or a Republican’s home.  In fact, I challenge anyone to identify a person’s political party by their American flag or how they hold their heart during the national anthem or how loudly they cheer for fireworks.   America is near civil war, according to cable news, but Democrats and Republicans just spent a week safely celebrating with explosives.  I cannot speak for the pundits, but gunpowder does not lie.

Few issues seem to divide the political elite more than public education, but again, I have yet to see red schools and blue schools.  Instead, I contend that public education may be the most solid common ground shared by Republicans and Democrats.  And despite all the political posturing in the media, I rarely see bitter division in communities or schools because when it comes to our kids, none of us are donkeys or elephants.  We are all just people who want our kids to be safe, to be nurtured by caring adults, and to have opportunities to grow their gifts.  The political posturing may work on cable television, but I have yet to see either political party produce any meaningful or lasting change in our schools, despite their genuinely good intentions.

Without exception, both the Democrat and Republican parties place education at the top of their priorities, and I do not doubt their noble motives.  Public education is the top issue shared across the political spectrum, but unfortunately, national leaders energize their respective bases by pointing to extreme examples to justify whatever social paintbrush they are holding.  Do schools need more resources or do parents simply need more choice?  Will more regulations or more competition improve student achievement?  These are all worthy of debate, but these are questions that should be discussed locally, by parents and educators and school boards.  The talking heads in Washington do not know your kids or your teachers or your schools.

Great schools are always the product of great communities, great parents, and great teachers.  Public schools are where Republicans and Democrats work together regularly without any concern for each other’s party affiliation.  Both Democrats and Republicans care deeply about public education.  They simply have different perspectives, and we need both perspectives to make our schools great.  I cannot argue with Democrats who advocate for more funding, and I cannot argue with Republicans who demand more innovation.  Public education is simultaneously the most conservative and most liberal of ideals, and we see that every day in a local schoolhouse. We all want the best for our children and grandchildren.  Period.

We all share our flag, and we all share our public schools.  They are as unifying as these words at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  It is the vision of our United States, and no local institution fulfills that mission better than your local public school.  Your local educators take all, serve all, and love all to the best of their abilities.  Public schools are the hearts of our communities, not places of bitter political divisions, despite what the national political elite try to portray.  So please remember that education is not a red or a blue issue.  It is a red, white, and blue issue.  

For more of Tom’s articles visit tomdeighan.com