Skip to content

Everyone Is Responsible for Education

We spend a lot of time talking about accountability in education as it applies to students, teachers and schools. Students are required to take a number of standardized tests, schools can be penalized if the test results don’t measure up, and we’re constantly looking at ways to measure teacher performance.

We should demand accountability. Idaho spends about $1.4 billion on our public schools – which is by far the largest appropriation in state government. We spend on average $8,279 per student, from kindergarten through the 12th grade. But what about accountability from parents?

If I were “king for a day,” I’d require all parents to be involved with their children’s education – and not just with sports and other school activities. Parental involvement makes the difference between success and failure for kids’ education. Our parents must take the time and make the effort to help their children succeed in the educational process.

Not long ago, I received a letter from a woman who described herself as “a parent of five children, grandparent and educator” for the past 17 years. I’d like to share parts of that letter.

“In education, there are many factors to consider when a child does not pass his ISAT examination each spring and fall. It is always easy to blame the teachers or the students for the students’ failure, but what about the parents? In every school system across the state, there are children who miss 30 to 40 days of school each year and yet, these same students are still expected to pass the ISATs and if they don’t the teachers and the school administrators are held accountable.”

The writer makes an excellent point. If that child misses that much school, there’s no way to attain favorable results on a test. But the question is, don’t the parents know, or care, if their child is missing that much school?

The letter writer offers a solution:

“Students in middle schools should be allowed to go to high school only if they have passed their classes. That’s one way to get the attention of parents.”

“Our laws are so weak, schools do not have the teeth to require a child to stay back if they don’t pass their classes, and guess what? The students know this, thus adding to the problem,” the woman writes. “Schools need new laws requiring parents to have their kids in school…As educators, we love the kids we teach, we want them to succeed, but we can’t teach them if they are not in school.”

As a state, we are obligated to provide for a “free” public education system. It isn’t free, and we need to remember that. Everyone who gains from the resources spent to run our “free” education system should have some stake in it.

I read an interesting commentary from Wm McAndrew, a past superintendent of Chicago schools, published in the 1934 edition of the Boy Scout handbook.

“Apparently this is not intended as a free gift for me. The whole community is paying for my education for some return due to the community itself. If I study the ideas that were put forward when American education was made a public and not a private expense, I find hat the men who made it so promised that those educated by public taxes would serve the community.”

His comment was right on target. I wish more students – and parents – would take it to heart. The citizens of this great state are putting up the money. Students and parents need to commit to the effort and time for education success.