Civic Investment and the ‘Skyboxing’ of Education

Posted by on July 11, 2011

The skybox-bleachers gap

“The public education your child gets often is only as good as the public education you and your community can afford,” writes former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, in an opinion piece in Education Week. When budget cuts put a program, teacher, or even planned building at risk — depending on the wealth of the community — parents and boosters sometimes financially step in. In this way, Riley says, we’ve been witnessing the “skyboxing” of American education: “Like their socioeconomic peers at ballgames, students in education skyboxes are buffered from realities most students face by their well-appointed educational accommodations… Meanwhile, the vast majority of students sit in the equivalent of bleacher seats, or they are stuck behind a pillar, squinting to see their teachers in overcrowded classrooms.” No amount of boosterism or checkbook philanthropy can close the skybox-bleachers gap; more than ever, Riley says, we need strong public advocacy to resolve our schools’ fiscal woes. Riley recently co-chaired a National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education, which called on Americans and community organizations to bolster public will in the service of policies and resources that support educational opportunities for all young people — not just their own. When communities work together to build public interest in education, “democracy thrives,” Riley writes.

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