08/10/08 — Be an advocate - Students need facilitiesthat inspire excellence

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Be an advocate - Students need facilitiesthat inspire excellence

Bill and Melinda Gates and their Gates Foundation are on a mission — to improve schools for children across America.

And now after airing a show documenting conditions in schools across the country — and discussing educational offerings at “poor versus rich” schools — talk show host Oprah Winfrey has joined the campaign as well.

But that is not why you should care about the conditions in your schools and the educational opportunities for children there. And it is also not why you should take it upon yourself to find out what your children’s schools are really like and what course offerings and academic materials are available there.

You should take an interest because you and other parents, grandparents and guardians like you are the best advocates for not only your own children, but for all children.

People talk all the time about how money does not make good schools — and it doesn’t, if that is all you have.

Good schools are a combination of good facilities, extensive academic offerings and resources, quality teachers who care about their students and parents who are willing to get involved.

But there is another factor, too — children.

Schools that push students to be better than they ever thought they could be, that demand more and expect more, get more. Schools that refuse to compromise on discipline and force students and parents to be accountable have environments that foster success.

So, if all that other stuff matters, why is there so much talk about facilities? Why is improving them the first step and not the last?

Think about it. A child who goes to school every day in a facility that is obviously in need of repair and who does not have access to technology, high-quallity academic materials and other offerings found in more affluent schools — what message does that child get about the importance of education or his value?

Now imagine a child who goes to a bright, well-kept school with new books, lots of academic opportunities and facilities that are up-to-date.

The facilities might not determine his future, but they sure could be part of his inspiration to strive to be something more.

Wayne County does not suffer from some of the same blight that occurs in many inner city schools — some of those conditions are appalling. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t demand better for all our students — and the best whenever possible.

The facilities debate is amicable and moving forward; both the Board of Education and the county commissioners have worked hard to get to this point.

But it is important that the rest of us who care about the county’s children — whether they are our own or someone else’s — make sure that providing proper facilities for them and giving schools the materials and resources they need is top priority.

More parents and residents getting involved and advocating for their schools is a great way to let community leaders know where you want to see your tax money spent. If you want to see more money go to schools, speak up while there is still time to influence the final county budget.

We can leave the details to the school board and commissioners, but fighting for our children is our job.

Published in Editorials on August 10, 2008 1:58 PM