Parental involvement needed for progress

Hearing state legislators express the same frustrations many of us have about our struggling public schools system is not surprising.

Now if only they could either figure out the solution to fix the problems or, our preference, get the state out of the way so more parents can take a crack at it.

Education dominated the discussion Thursday when lawmakers spoke to a crowd attending the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon.

Some things we heard that sounded right:

  • Portales Republican Sen. Stuart Ingle: "Parental involvement is the key to success in education. Period. End of story."
  • Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs: "We want to bring parents in to work with teachers, work with administration and the students to figure out how we can try to move that child forward."

Certainly the lawmakers are correct in that parents have to be directly involved in their children's education. What we did not hear, though, were references to parental options beyond public institutions.

Cookie-cutter public schools may be OK for most students, but they certainly don't work for those with special needs or for the exceptionally gifted. In fact, many teachers we know report distractions from "problem" students prevent all students from learning.

That's why parents need to have options beyond public school — vouchers or tax breaks that allow them to afford private schools, for example.

We also were troubled to hear Kernan, a professional public educator, say New Mexico's truancy laws are not strong enough.

Does anyone seriously think government can force education on families who don't see it benefiting them?

The public schools system is so inadequate it allows promotion of New Mexico third-graders who cannot read.

With standards like that, how can you prove to families that getting an education is beneficial?

Overall, if Ingle and Kernan are representative of lawmakers determined to improve the public schools, we're encouraged progress can be made; they got the parental involvement part right, for sure.

And we agree with Kernan about what we can achieve with strong learning institutions: "One way to have safe communities is to have a better educated citizenry."

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