My Point of View: Same rules should apply if getting public funds

Published 9:15 pm Monday, February 10, 2020

My Point of View by Robin Brown

Robin Brown


Minnesota nice. We believe in treating people with kindness and respect. We strive for clarity in the things we say, because we know that words matter. A turn of phrase can inspire, calm, instill hope or promote anger and distrust.

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I was reminded of the impact that our choice of words has as I listened to President Donald Trump read his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Feb. 4. I am not referring to the highly political exaggerations, misstatements and complete falsehoods that can be easily fact-checked. I’m referring to the choice of language selected specifically to invoke negative feelings.

I’m referring to the way he uses the words “government schools.” It seems that “government” anything has had negative connotations since President Ronald Reagan said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” But the fact is, in a representative democracy, we the people, choose our government.

Words matter. In Minnesota, we refer to independent school districts run by locally elected school boards as public schools. We believe that all students have the right to a publicly funded education.

In Minnesota, we understand the needs of all students are not the same, so Minnesota public schools provide many choices for parents to decide which type of education best fits their children. For example, students may attend the school closest to their home address or they may open enroll to another school. Alternative schools are a better fit for some students, while other families prefer online school or home schooling. Some students even benefit from college in the school concurrent enrollment.

All the public schools are funded, almost entirely, by state taxes and property taxes.  Public schools were created to serve all students, regardless of ability, family status, disability, mental health — all students. Public schools are tasked with preparing all students for life after high school and that is individual from student to student.

As a parent of six children who all graduated from public schools, the wife of a public-school superintendent and a teacher, I am so proud of the work we do for the students we serve. Public schools offer gifted services, remedial services, social services, counseling, nursing care, opportunities to follow individual passions, solid content, high national and state standards and so much more. Public schools offer students hope for the future.

During the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump once again implied his preference for private schools over public schools. He and a large majority of the Republican Party want to spend publicly funded tax revenue to pay for students attending private schools.

Private schools can be a good option for many families. But private schools are just that — private. Private schools are not held to the same academic standards, education rules and regulations, and standardized testing as are public schools. Private schools may exclude students who have different religious views or have physical or mental handicaps.

As far as public funding is concerned, private schools in Minnesota already receive many public dollars in the form of publicly funded bussing, textbook revenue, counseling services and special education services.

Minnesota has many wonderful public and private schools. They are different.  They have different visions.   Public schools are required to take all students who reside in their district regardless of their gender, race, religion, academic abilities or physical or mental disabilities. Private schools may be selective.

If private schools receive public funding, they should be required to be held to the same rules and regulations as public schools.

Robin Brown is a teacher and former District 27A representative. She lives in Moscow Township.