My granddaughter plays in her middle school orchestra. Last week I had the honor of attending her spring orchestra concert. The concert was a celebration of the students’ achievements as well as their wonderful teacher. The concert also celebrated the community coming together. All students have a chance at playing an instrument. Their proud parents and other family members and friends come together for this wonderful event.

Why public schools? Public schools include district charter and district virtual schools. To produce more special events such as concerts and displays and tournaments. To give all children in our community a fair chance at developing their talents to the fullest. All of us benefit from an educated citizenry.

Public schools are publicly funded. The constitutions of all 50 states provide for the establishment of publicly-funded schools.

Public schools offer public access. All students are welcomed and are served.

Public schools are publicly accountable. The schools are run by democratically-elected school boards. They are required to follow Open Meetings and Open Records Laws.

Public schools are subject to state and federal laws.

Public schools offer public curriculum. Decisions are made collectively about what is meant by “educated” and what standards will be met.

Our tax dollars are at work in public schools. We all benefit from an educated citizenry. Public schools are a backbone of our community and our democracy.

Do you know that our public tax dollars also support private schools? The vouchers (public funds to support private schools) began as an experiment in Milwaukee over 20 years ago.

In the past 8 years, the private schools have been taking more of our public tax dollars, without accountability.

Independent Charter Schools are privately managed. They are 100 per cent funded by tax dollars. They are authorized by entities approved by the Wisconsin State Legislature. These schools receive the first “bite” of funds set aside for K-12 education. These schools are viewed as a growth industry by hedge fund investors.

The private voucher schools are often religious schools. They are not subject to Open Meetings or Open Records Laws. They are not held accountable for how public tax dollars are used. They are not subject to many state and federal laws. They can be selective about which students they keep to educate. Funding is taken from the local school districts. They get the second bite of public school funds.

Public schools divide up what’s left. At this point, we need to be aware of privatization.

Privatization is the transfer of a service from public ownership to private ownership and control. Privatization allows individuals, rather than elected bodies, to direct tax dollars.

In this glorious time of year, let us continue to keep our public schools public. Public schools are the backbone of our community.

Sources: Dr. Julie Mead, UW-Madison, Wisconsin DPE (dpi. wi.gov); School Funding Reform for Wisconsin (reformwi.org); Wisconsin Public Education Network (wisconsinnetwork.org), Mary Jarvis