Dear Secretary of State Clinton,
I am sure you remember the slogan during your challenger’s campaign, the “fierce urgency of now.” It has been exactly 30 months since the inauguration of President Obama, and we still have a public school system in chaos and shambles. In addition, we have not completed the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and test scores in math and English-Language Arts continue to be the major factor in judging effective schools.
However, I know you believe that public education must be so much more than a two-subject curricular dance. All schools for America’s children must have a balanced curriculum, including history, science, world languages, the visual and performing arts with a talented faculty.
America’s children are suffering more today with the precipitous decline in public funding for education than anytime in my public school career, yet we can find ways to fund two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and intervene in Libya with our NATO Alliance. I hypothesize that you are the Superwoman that children conscripted to public schools have been waiting for.
The press has made it clear you do not want to serve a second term as Secretary of State if Pres. Obama wins a second term in 2012. A few days ago Reuters sources indicated you are interested in becoming head of the World Bank, but your spokesperson flatly denies the claim. I have another proposal.
You are the only person that can make public education the priority it deserves for all children in this country. Your experiences as First Lady, Senator, Presidential contender, and SOS have earned you my utmost respect and admiration. History shows us you did great work in Arkansas as First Lady fighting for effective prenatal, early childhood, and parent education programs. These three issues must become the foundational bedrock of America’s educational system. I think you understand this better than any of the past Secretaries of Education.
In 1999 speaking to the National Education Association you said, “First and foremost, we have to expect every single child to succeed and we have to hold every one of them to high academic standards. There should be no exceptions, no excuses, to our solemn commitment that every child learn; every child deserves to be challenged, to have their imagination sparked. That is not just the task in our schools; it has to start in our homes with parents and family members who value education.”
You might at first blush consider this position a step down, however if you step up to the challenges in public education today by proposing to your boss that you take the reigns of leadership at the Department of Education in 2012, you can go down in history as the greatest of all American heroes, the Superwoman we do not have to wait for any longer. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan has done some good work as leader of America’s system of public education, yet we are not moving with a “fierce urgency of now.”
Public-funded, corporate-run charter schools are making up a growing proportion of America’s schools. For the record 61 percent of New Orleans Public School students attend charters, along with 38 percent of District of Columbia public schools, 36 percent of Detroit public schools, and 32 percent of Kansas City public schools. If the trend continues it is possible most of America’s children will be educated by private, in some cases, for-profit businesses.
I urge you to consider the fact that ultimately the Charter School choice movement is not good for America’s democracy. Of course, nor are the 40,000 students in San Jose scoring below grade level in math and language arts that sit in our traditional public schools classrooms.
What a legacy you will leave for America when you have transformed pubic education for all its children and you have raised the stature of the teacher as a professional forever more. Yes, Secretary of Education Hilary Rodham Clinton, the Superwoman we no longer have to wait for; finally the “fierce urgency of now” has meaning.
Joseph Steven Di Salvo
Santa Clara County Office of Education