What would happen if we closed public schools?

According to press reports this week, in Feb 2018, there’s an emergency in our public schools.  People are dying there in mass shootings.  What would happen if the emergency of school shootings were taken seriously?  What would happen if there were a National Public School Holiday and all public schools were closed?

FDR (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) once closed all the banks in a Bank Holiday until plans were laid to reorganize banks by instituting Glass Steagall, by adding the SEC and FDIC insurance.  There were both winners and losers when FDR did that.  FDR made gold illegal to own and confiscated it.  People who owned gold lost out.  And before the banks were closed, there were bank failures where people lost their money.  There was terrible anxiety during the Bank Holiday all across America.   There was suffering.  And discomfort.  People weren’t happy that American banking would change because they couldn’t see whether it would work out for them.  After the dust settled though, American banking grew more solvent and stable and that was a win for everyone.

Isn’t the death of so many defenseless people in public schools more important than bank failures?  Students and teachers are losing their lives.  Isn’t that worse than having banks fail because they are insolvent?  Doesn’t the death of these children and teachers indicate a kind of public school insolvency?

Right away, I can imagine the terrible fear and trouble that closing America’s public schools would cause.  We can begin with public school employment.  Right away, teachers would worry that their jobs would go away.  Administrators also would worry that their jobs would go away.  Janitors jobs, cafeteria personnel, gardeners, special education trainers and maintenance people’s jobs might come to an end.  Maybe these people should be paid for a period of time while public schools are changed.  Perhaps for a transitional period paying them would help to depoliticize part of the change.

Parents would worry if public schools closed about how they would educate their children.  They would worry also about how to keep them safe without public school teachers to watch over them.  But closing public schools might be like having a long summer vacation.  Parents deal with alternatives for their kids during summer vacation and Christmas vacation.  A School Holiday might be like the other ones that parents are used to but it might lead to some changes after the Holiday was over.

How can we change public schools?   What criteria matters in our public schools to determine if they are good?  Can children get an education without public schools?  How can we make schools safe and effective?  Should we consider decentralizing them or making them smaller or home-schooling by computer?  Although the jobs that people enjoy as part of our public school system are important, they aren’t important enough to keep the schools open in the context of serial killings.

I once had a conversation with a retired teacher that affected me a lot when she said that the only reason that poor kids even have a chance at getting an education in America is because of the public school system.  That retired teacher didn’t want schools to become privatized because she was afraid that they would become too expensive for poorer kids to attend.  However, public schools as they are now are expensive too and families with school age kids count on taxes to fund them.  What if families got paid directly for an education alternative with their kids out of public schools?

How can kids get a better education?  How can a child’s education in America get accomplished in a way that offers meaningful skills and learning?  Some say that public schools are failing to provide a good education to a majority of students.  And people have noticed that providing more money to American public schools isn’t solving our schools’ problems.

Under neoliberalism, almost everything in America has become regulated into a state of permanent disaster and various stakeholders are more than willing to block change.  Stakeholders want to stop changes that could disrupt whatever advantages they already have.  In the case of the public school system that has become undeniably true.

American public schools have become a mixture of concentrated problems.  The Great Recession increased poverty and homelessness among America’s children.  That has affected our schools by bringing more disadvantaged people in.  Poverty has put pressure on teachers because of increased absences and social suffering.  Algorithms to monitor teacher’s performance have gotten some good teachers fired.  That’s one of the problems that lies at the root of public school teacher shortages.  Many American kids are being medicated with psychoactive drugs and some of those drugs may cause mass shooting as a side effect in some students (1).  Despite warnings on some prescribed drugs that they may cause suicidal ideation, some parents want to continue using them and these drugs provide a big profit for pharmaceutical companies.  Can we do without them?  Some people want to regulate guns differently while others think that regulating guns differently won’t reduce mass shootings. (2) Our dysfunctional schools call on us to bring more money and hire more administrators and buy more drugs and test more teachers and test more students and extract more money from tax payers.  But beneficial change in public schools has seemed impossible.

Think of all the fighting among teachers and teacher’s unions, beween various kinds of administrators, between teachers and administrators, among people who design basic skills testing and algorithms for evaluating teacher and student performance and drug companies that want to defend their profits, between federal oversight and local oversight of schools.  Think of conflicts between those who want public tax money to go to public schools and those who want it to go to private schools.  Think of strife breaking out during School Board meetings.  Think of how many problems meet and clash in our schools.  Now think of how little public schools have changed for the better over the last 30 years.  It’s well past time to stop picking sides in the debates about public schools.  Let’s not argue anymore.

Our public schools may have reached a state of emergency.  What would happen if American public schools took a long Holiday?  At the very least, there would be no mass shootings at public schools over that period.  And without vested interests blocking change, people with fresh ideas might have a chance to present those fresh ideas as new opportunities .  Maybe a variety of new options could be tried in different regions of our nation.  Give the kids some homework away from public schools.  Pay school personnel to stay away from school for the transition period.  Close the public schools.  In the context of mass shootings, they aren’t safe.  And they aren’t good at educating students for today’s workforce.  Find a solution that’s different from what we have now.

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(1) Jon Rappoport, “Mass Shootings and Psychiatric Drugs: The Connection,”  Feb 22, 2018, https://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/mass-shootings-and-psychiatric-drugs-the-connection/.

(2) The Anchorage Daily Planet, “Gun Hysteria,” http://www.anchoragedailyplanet.com/110446/gun hysteria; printed in the editorial section, and posted by the editor.  It says that the number of school shootings has been misrepresented and far fewer mass shootings have occurred than the popular press has been claiming.

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