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Bill Cirone: Free Public Education Sets Us Apart

We will succeed as a society as long as we continue to serve all children

Public education has always been the glue that binds our citizens together and forms the foundation for our democracy. It has been the case since the very birth of our nation.

Bill Cirone
Bill Cirone

In fact, a secular, nonideological public education system — available to all — is what separates free nations from others. That’s why it’s a good idea to remind ourselves why public education is so very vital and why it’s actually doing so very well.

This nation was created on the premise of free public education for all. Our founding fathers believed it was the duty of all adults in a community to provide an education for the children. The premise was that a community is healthiest when its children are well educated so that they can carry on the community’s responsibilities when they are adults. That is every bit the case today as well.

There are many ways that parents can secure an excellent education for their children, in both public and private school settings. This takes nothing away from our obligation as members of a democracy to support public schools, because the well-being of the nation depends on the decisions of an educated, informed electorate.

Every dollar spent to keep a child in school reduces the future costs of welfare, prison and intervention services that correlate so highly with school dropouts.

It is primarily the egalitarian nature of public schooling that makes it so very cherished in a democracy. Public schools take all comers: the disabled, the gifted, the happy and the malcontent. They take the shy and the aggressive, the poor and the rich, those who speak different languages, and those who do not speak at all.

We will succeed as a society as long as we serve all our children. Our schools are a true melting pot, bringing together young people from every background and walk of life; within the walls of the classroom, all that counts is merit. Public schools have always been the strength of this nation, throughout its history.

We must work together to support a system of public education that is unique. We lead the world in manufacturing, agriculture, the arts, the sciences, the military, technology, research — and we must remember that we have our public school system to thank for it.

As resources get strained and public schools shoulder an outsized share of enormous budget cuts, we must always keep in mind why our schools and the students they serve are so vital to all of us.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools.

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