Yes, do we truly care about our children regarding their education? I’m not so sure. If we purely take a look at the actions of so many, I would have to answer on the negative side of the question. Let me explain my perspective.

I am a retired elementary school teacher and elementary school principal with all of my experience from three different public school districts in the Tucson metro area. The schools are located in three different socio-economic areas of the Tucson community. Although there may be differences in some ways, there is one common thread for every location, that being that each area has children who deserve a very high quality education.

In fact, every child in every location in America deserves that very high quality education. Sadly, not all of these children in America are getting what they deserve. Adults, with different roles, are letting many of these children down.

The adults are supposed to be their advocates as these children go through life. It is time for me to “fess up” in regard to my experiences as a public school employee. As a principal, I bought into the philosophy that federal and state funds should go to only the public schools. After several years away from that period of time, I have come to grips with the fact that I was misguided in my thinking. Although, for me personally, I was blessed with the good fortune of being a part of some excellent schools. Recently, someone I respect shared this thought with me. I reserve the right to “get smarter.”

Actually, I do look at it that way. I do believe very strongly that if we truly care about our children in America, then we need to offer each one of them a very high quality education, whether it be in a public, private, charter, or parochial school. Each child, along with their parents, deserves the opportunity to select the school of their choice. With that selection, the federal and state funding should follow that child to that chosen school. After all, they are tax dollars. Competition is essential for this plan to work as intended. It should follow a business model.

The schools that provide the children with a high quality education along with demonstrated results, academically and behaviorally, will prosper. Those that don’t meet the high quality standards, both academically and behaviorally, will see their own demise, as it should be. Two key words that go along with the stated plan are “standards” and “expectations.”

From my perspective, it is so clear to me that when considering these two words with what is happening in our society today I see a great deal of “dumbing down” academically and behaviorally in too many schools. Remember, it is those adults in their various roles that are doing this to the children. It does not need to happen, and it absolutely should not be happening. To the adults with a role in the lives of all of America’s children, it is time to wake up and provide these children with the high quality education that will change their lives forever. “School Choice” is the key!

Do we truly care about our children regarding their education? In closing, if what I have shared strikes a chord with you, and you’d like to learn more about what can be done to provide a high quality education for every child in Arizona, I highly recommend you go to the website for the Arizona Coalition of School Board Members, a non-profit, non partisan organization, to learn more about how YOU can become involved in a very focused effort on behalf of our children. You do not need to be a school board member, past, present, or future to become involved and make a difference.

Bob Lenihan is a retired Arizona public school elementary teacher and principal, a husband, father and grandfather a U.S. Air Force Veteran, and a member of the Arizona Coalition of School Board Members. He is a part-time Pinetop resident.

(2) comments


Our tax dollars don't need to be thrown at private schools. They can become a charter school or they can find their own funds. If their programs are so great they will catch on if not...


“War is too important to be left to the generals”, Georges Clemenceau. By analogy, education is too important to be left to local officials. We have been doing exactly that for centuries now and that is proximal cause of our tatterdemalion system which fails children across the board.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries. PISA results recently placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. Among the 35 members of the OECD, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science. We did equally poorly on reading a well. Our system which is based on local school control for K-12 education is a massive failure.

That system is a hodge-podge controlled by local school boards and local property

taxation which assures enormous variances in educational quality and citizen-prep for millions of youngsters who have little or no choice in their educations. Local school boards are comprised of many members with few or no qualifications in the field of education, many for whom seek only to degrade education by assuring that science is denigrated in favour of personal convictions outside of reality. What is more, subjects such as history, literature and sociology are scrubbed of every jot and tittle recalling our amoral history of racism, slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of discrimination.

Local property taxation results in ruinous differences in the quality of facilities, equipment and supplies which are often inadequate for any valid programme of instruction, thus assuring that capabilities on campus are driven not by educational needs, but community wealth. The same thing applies to teachers’ compensation with woeful outcomes for students. Mind you, America spends far more per student than other wealthy nations but still gets substandard results? With such generous largess directed toward education, financing, per se, is not the problem; although, the distribution of financing surely is.

There are three common threads running through those foreign educational systems which explains the stark differences in quality. First, there are federally set, minimum uniform outcomes for the entire system. Second, curriculum development has federal oversight. Third, opportunities for learning are assured by federal funding and standards. It is time for us to abandon our 18th century system of local control and guarantee every student equal facilities, teacher quality, safety, nutrition, health care, and outcomes geared toward life in this century.

“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.” Mark Twain

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