Psst, Working Moms: Did You Know It's Your Fault Schools Are Struggling?
Move over teachers, there's a new group to blame for the woes of America's public schools: working moms. At a Washington Post Live Event on Tuesday morning, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant stepped in it ankle deep when he responded to a question about the state of our schools, "How did America get so mediocre?"
Bryant claims that the problems with public education started when "both parents started working. The mom got in the work place."
Yes, working moms, you need to take a good hard look in the mirror at your role in destroying public education. Never mind that you spent the 2012-2013 school year juggling your schedule so you could volunteer in your kid's classroom, and so you could help out by being a field trip chaperone, you are to blame for the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's recent decision to gut public schools so severely that campuses will no longer have counselors, librarians, secretaries, teacher's aides, or even sports team. (So much for brotherly love, right?)
Never mind that so many of you working moms took time off from your jobs and and marched through the streets of Chicago in protest, you are absolutely to blame for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed Board of Education choosing to shutter 50 schools across the city and then turning around and handing over $100 million for the construction of a private university athletic complex. And beyond a doubt you are to blame for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plans to tear down three schools that serve low income and special education student populations and replace them with luxury apartment buildings.
Instead of blaming you, Bryant could have pointed out that the word "mediocre" is a misleading descriptor since while there is much to improve about our public schools, American students overall are actually performing higher on international tests than they were 50 years ago. He could have even mentioned that it's amazing we're doing as well as we are since poverty is widely known to be tied to poor academic performance in school, and nearly a quarter of school-age children are living in it.
As David Sirota so aptly puts it in Salon,
According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, "about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011 … up from about to one in eight in 2000." This followed an earlier study from the department finding that "many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding … leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers."
Sirota goes on to note that the data shows that it's no "coincidence that the public education and poverty crises are happening at the same time." But nope, instead of actually relying on data and research, it's easier for the Phil Bryants of the world to throw working women under the bus.
Of course Bryant dialed back his comments by saying that "both parents are so pressured." Well, if Bryant wants women (and men) to be able to stay home and nurture their children, surely he should promote policies that help relieve that pressure.
How about he become a vocal advocate for better maternity leave policies so American women—who don't have to be paid if they go on maternity leave, you only have to be guaranteed that your job will be there when you come back to work—can catch up to the paid leave policies of the rest of the world? C'mon, Governor Bryant, at least the United States should be like Mexico and have 84 days of paid leave, right?
How about Bryant also sign legislation mandating a living wage in the State of Mississippi and then become a fierce advocate for it nationally so that both parents don't have to work to make ends meet? And surely Bryant should become an advocate for welfare reform so that low income single moms don't have to leave their small children to go punch a clock at a minimum wage job that barely pays the bills.
Yes, Governor Bryant, we working mothers of the United States are waiting for you to make it easier for us to nurture our kids and ensure they're bringing home report cards with all A's. What say you? And what will Mississippi's working moms say to you at the polls when you're up for reelection?
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