Dallas public schools don’t have a good reputation.
Significantly, it’s not just parents who are concerned with the state of public education in our city. Polling a gathering of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Young Professionals group, 65 percent said that they would not send their child to a public school in Dallas. When you think about the future of public education and the disparity that sees many students of color receiving a subpar education, this is significant.
When asked “If given the opportunity, all things being equally comparable, would you send your child to a public or private school?” 83 percent said they would send their child to a public school.
This speaks volumes to how the public schools in Dallas (both traditional and charter) are viewed among young professionals in Dallas (albeit a very limited and unrepresentative sample). But it brings up another challenge: if this is how the one percent feel about education in Dallas, how must the parents of the students attending these schools feel? And what are the consequences, should these young professionals have children in the next ten years and nothing in the DFW area changes?
School quality is more than just a PR problem for Dallas. It’s something that needs to be addressed, aggressively and immediately. Public schools are the lifeblood of our city— they create the citizens of tomorrow. Student success in school and student opportunities beyond K-12 education will determine the future of our city. If our students are well equipped, they have a greater chance to go on to good jobs and invest back in their communities. If they are not prepared, if the opportunities for them post-high school are lacking, in large part because of the lack of preparation they received as students in our city, we will merely be continuing the cycle that currently exists— a cycle that doesn’t do enough to support low income students and help them pursue opportunities beyond the neighborhoods they grew up in.
Can we fault parents for pulling their children out of public schools that are failing and placing them in private schools? No, but not every parent has those same options. We must focus on improving the public options for every student— regardless of their background and income level. We need to invest in public pre-K so that students have support from their earliest years; support rigorous teacher preparation for teachers who will be prepared to support students in these high needs schools and support those teachers so that they remain in the classroom. We must work within the communities to involve parents and families in the process. And we must take on this responsibility ourselves, rather than waiting for someone else to champion the cause. If we do this, over 83 percent of tomorrow’s students will attend public schools, leading to greater diversity and community involvement in the public school community— a win in and of itself.