Miriam is in her home in Washington, D.C.
Native Washingtonian Miriam Edelman graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, with majors in political science and urban studies and a concentration in history. For almost five years, she worked on Capitol Hill in personal offices and on committees in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. In May 2012, she graduated with a master’s in public administration from Cornell University. She also has a master’s of science in social work (focusing on policy) from Columbia University. She aims to continue her career in public service.

Originating in the late 1800s, public schools have been and are crucial in the U.S. They have had a civics mission. This system began in order to educate American children to promote democracy and to prepare young people to be informed and reliable citizens.[i] Every state is required to provide free education to each child.[ii] Although many public school parents pay for school supplies, extracurricular activities, special events, and other items,[iii] public schools provide every American, regardless of income, a free education. As jobs increasingly require more education,[iv] proper schooling is essential to success. Federal, state, and local governments operate public schools, with local governments making many large decisions about public education. Federal and state governments can regulate school curricula and other matter. Children are required to go to school. If they do not attend public schools, they can go to private school or be homeschooled.[v]

            Recently, public education in the U.S. has been under threat, and it is currently not well-regarded.[vi] Funding for public schools decreased. As of August 2018, in the U.S., an average of $11,000 is spent per student per year. However, highest poverty districts receive $1,200 less, and districts with the biggest numbers of student of color receive $2,000 less.[vii] Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump tried to cut public education funding.[viii] Current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos[ix] and others support vouchers and charter schools as alternatives to public schools,[x] but both options harm public schools. Vouchers let parents apply public school money to a private or religious school, allowing children to attend schools that they otherwise could not access. As of January 2017, almost 400,000 students in 29 states use vouchers. Meanwhile, charter schools are privately operated and publicly financed. Their proponents think these schools can help disadvantaged children and that they enhance educational opportunities. Opponents feel that charter schools siphon money from traditional public schools (TPS), hurting the public schools’ students. In addition, charter schools have been found to be highly segregated, compared to TPSs.[xi]

            Public schools also provide education to children with disabilities. Enacted in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stipulated that children and youth ages three-21 with disabilities be provided with appropriate public school education.[xii] These disabilities include, “Intellectual disability; Hearing, speech or vision impairment; Serious emotional disturbance; Orthopedic impairment; Autism; Traumatic brain injury;”[xiii] and “Other health impairment or specific learning disability.”[xiv] Students with other disabilities can request special accommodation.[xv] In recent decades, the percent of public school students in federally supported special education programs increased from 8.3 percent in 1976-1977 to 13.8 percent in 2004-05. Some of this rise is from an increase in students with certain learning disabilities.[xvi] Authorizing federal money for primary and secondary schools, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act focuses on equal access to education and mandates the inclusion of students with disabilities in the student achievement system.[xvii]

I hope that every child with or without disabilities can get a high-quality public education. TPSs should be improved and fully funded. Tens of millions of students, including students with disabilities, rely on these schools. Money should not be diverted from them. As a graduate of three TPSs, I see that they can provide great education. I have benefited from my attendance at them from Pre-K through grade 12. My honors and Advanced Placement courses prepared me for postsecondary education. Participating in Harvard Model Congress and the Model Organization of American States in high school fostered my strong interest in political science. My public schools Spanish training also benefited me, providing me with sufficient language skills to intern in two bilingual embassy-type offices. Fulling funding public education will be able to provide every student the opportunities that I was fortunate to have.

[i] http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2016/11/civics_education_more_necessary_than_ever.html

[ii] https://education.findlaw.com/education-options/public-school.html

[iii] https://www.usnews.com/education/high-schools/articles/2012/05/08/5-hidden-costs-of-public-high-school

[iv] http://statchatva.org/2019/05/10/a-greater-number-of-jobs-require-more-education-leaving-middle-skill-workers-with-fewer-opportunities/

[v] https://education.findlaw.com/education-options/public-school.html

[vi] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-war-on-public-schools/537903/

[vii] http://neatoday.org/2018/08/03/10-challenges-facing-public-education-today/

[viii] https://www.self.com/gallery/public-school

[ix] https://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/devos.html?src=hp

[x] https://www.businessinsider.com/what-are-charter-schools-2017-1

[xi] https://www.businessinsider.com/what-are-charter-schools-2017-1

[xii] https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=64

[xiii] https://education.findlaw.com/education-options/public-school.html

[xiv] https://education.findlaw.com/education-options/public-school.html

[xv] https://education.findlaw.com/education-options/public-school.html

[xvi] https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=64

[xvii] https://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=273