To state the obvious, 2020 was a very difficult year for public education. I once heard the former long-time Executive Director of Spartanburg Academic Movement, John Stockwell, describe public schools as “the centers of gravity in our communities.” If I had doubted John’s words then – and I didn’t – the Covid-19 pandemic certainly would have proven me wrong.
As the virus upended traditional classrooms, school districts mobilized to provide meals, internet connectivity, and virtual instruction to as many students as possible. Greenville County Schools alone distributed more than 2 million meals to children between March and August, deployed WiFi-enabled buses to expand internet access to families throughout Greenville County, and switched from full-time, face-to-face instruction to remote instruction in a matter of days. Their efforts to ensure the delivery of a high-quality education to Greenville County’s children despite a pandemic have been nothing short of Herculean and we salute them.
As we welcome 2021 armed with an effective Covid-19 vaccine and hopeful that normalcy is on the horizon, I urge you to consider which parts of “normal” served us well and which might be better left behind. Should schools be solely tasked with solving all of society’s ills – in particular poverty and racism and the trauma resulting from each? How instead could they play one part in a communal effort to eradicate both? What if teachers really are best positioned to measure student progress and deserve more professional deference when assessing students’ needs? Don’t our public schools, which serve 92% of South Carolina’s students, deserve robust and equitable investment to meet the needs of the diverse student body they serve?
For our team at Public Education Partners, 2021 is the year where we shake off the false narrative of failure and wholeheartedly embrace an ethos of collective responsibility to our students, teachers, and public schools. Our 2021 Advocacy Agenda reflects a hopefulness, not for a return to yesterday’s normal, but instead a realization of the promise of our greatest institution – our public schools.
We invite you to join us.
Policy & Advocacy Director