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This I Vote: Education

I believe in, vote for, and want to fund public schools.

In my city, Chattanooga, there is a long history of private school education. Not only are there over 1000 students in SDA schools, but a freakishly large number of other sectarian and nonsectarian private high schools and elementary schools abound. Some of them are nationally known. In Chattanooga society, asking “where did you go to school?” is to find out which elite private high school you attended and to place you in the correct social category.

Unfortunately, much of this private school proliferation was driven by racism. Private school attendance boomed after segregation was outlawed. And our public schools suffer because anyone who can afford to sends their children to private school. I am a product of private Christian (Adventist) schools. But the more involved I become in my neighborhood and community, the more I realize the precious resources that public schools provide. And so many of the teachers in our county are truly outstanding. They work very hard with very few resources. They teach a huge range of children, providing them with a worldview outside their home, with travel opportunities, with introductions to hobbies and skills.

My neighbor is a widow with six kids under the age of ten. School is their sanctuary. They get some of their only nutrition there. They receive male mentoring there—they make relationships with responsible adults who love them and listen to them. They learn about professions/occupations that they would otherwise never even imagine existed. Their home may be small and (let’s be honest) falling apart, but they get to go to a large, newly-remodeled school that they are very proud of. I can see markedly improved behavior and self-image when these kids start kindergarten.

These teachers, these schools, deserve our financial and moral support. They deserve our participation in their PTAs, our tutoring time, and our money. They deserve more than funding based on property taxes—where the rich get better schools and the poor ones can’t afford copier paper. I want to live in a country where we take democratic education seriously. I will vote for local candidates who send their kids to these schools and who will fund rebuilding money and teacher support opportunities. I believe in education and I think it is too important to leave it up to the fortunes of birth and privilege.

A graduate of the University of Chicago, Lisa Clark Diller is a professor of History at Southern Adventist University.

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