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Have local leaders abandoned the public schools?

ASK THIS | June 20, 2005

Overhauling America's worst public schools is a hugely challenging task, but it must be done. Yet as long as our leaders are able to opt out of public schools - without anyone pressing them about their obligation to those left behind - that's less likely to happen.

By Dan Froomkin

If your public schools are not adequately serving your children, ask every civic leader in your community who has school-age children:

Q. Do you send your children to public school?

Q. If not, why not?

Q. What do you have to say to the people who cannot afford to opt out of public schools?

Q. Do you believe public schools should be the great equalizers of our society?

Q. What are you personally doing to try to improve the quality of public schools?

Q. Whom do you consider responsible for improving public schools? And how are you pressuring them to do something?

Q. How willing or unwilling are you to just leave things the way they are?

Public schools, particularly in urban areas, are a disaster and have been for a long time. But even in suburban areas, they're often not good enough for the elites that make up so much of our elected and unelected civic leadership.

It will take nothing less than an enormous, broad-based revolt against the status quo to affect change. That's less likely to happen if our leaders are allowed to opt out of the public schools without anybody taking note and asking them what they're going to do about the people who don't have that option.

It seems reasonable that any civic-minded leaders, if they think the public schools aren't good enough for their children, should at the very least be working hard to improve them. Reasonable -- but not always the case. This is a story for news organizations of all sizes.

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