November 22, 1995

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Vol. 15, Issue 12
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High school athletes win varsity letters. Student thespians receive bouquets and applause. But what about students who are active in community service?
Wisconsin legislators last week repealed a law that gives tenure to Milwaukee County teachers after three years on the job. Both chambers of the legislature passed by voice vote a measure that would strip away the job security enjoyed by public school teachers in the city of Milwaukee and 17 surrounding districts for nearly 60 years.
State and local education officials were beginning to feel the impact of the partial federal government shutdown by late last week.
Public educators and reformers are walking a fine line. To achieve the changes they believe are desperately needed in public education, they must convince the general public that America's schools are in dire straits. Yet, disenchantment with schools is increasing, and even more criticism of schools may so alienate the public that they will abandon the public system altogether and turn to privatizing public schools or using vouchers to pay for private schools.
Public Agenda was founded on the premise that people can reach an intelligent consensus on tough policy issues if they are given the necessary tools. Traditionally, they have looked to their leaders in government, business, and the community to provide them with those tools.
Public engagement in school reform has become a hot topic lately. "It's about time" is not an unreasonable reaction, but the attention is still welcome.
Fifty years ago, Grand Rapids, Mich., was the first city in the country to fluoridate its water. The community didn't ask questions, and no one offered information on the chemicals introduced into our water supply. Perhaps because it was 1944, and the nation's focus was on winning the war, but this drastic government action did not create any public concern. It did not attract much particular interest at all.
Jennifer's 5th-grade teacher wanted to do something creative with social studies. The answer was a Group Project.
In this belt-tightening era, how money for public education is spent has become a centerpiece of highly rhetorical debate. It will become increasingly contentious because public school enrollments are increasing for the first time in two decades, causing education budgets to rise further. Meanwhile, highly publicized claims that there is little relationship between spending increases and student achievement have created a hostile environment for educators seeking new funds.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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