Bravo for Green Forest schools
Kudos to Superintendent Matt Summers and the Green Forest Public School System for fully honoring the “free” in Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). While Public Law 94-142, passed in 1975, established FAPE to ensure that children with disabilities would have the same access to a free education as their non-disabled peers, the implication is that a public education for any child is, in fact, free. But the concept of “free” in this context has developed slowly. Green Forest seems to have finally hit the nail on the head!
In the 60s, I went to a public junior high school in Michigan, where students were required to “rent” their textbooks from the school. Every family had to cough up a book fee at the beginning of the term before their children were allowed to read the lessons. At the age of 12, it hadn’t occurred to me that some families couldn’t afford the fee—until I witnessed one of my fellow students working in the school’s boiler room after hours.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I have to work to pay for my books,” he replied.
Shortly after my rude awakening, a group of parents filed a lawsuit opposing the fee requirement. That lawsuit earned all students in our area a truly free education. The school supplied everything: paper, pencils, pens, and of course, access to textbooks.
I presumed that public education was now free across the country — until I left Michigan and began to raise my own family. My children attended public schools in more than one state, and each of their schools began the year by sending home a list of supplies parents were required to purchase, sometimes including multiple hand soap dispensers and half a dozen boxes of tissues to be shared with the rest of the class. This will not be the case in Green Forest this fall. The school system will be paying for all the supplies.
My own career of more than three decades in public schools had me buying supplies for my students and for my classroom on a regular basis. Green Forest Schools is working on this, too, by promising teachers of all grade levels a stipend for classroom supplies.
The surest way to make a nation great is to ensure that all its inhabitants receive at least a basic education: reading, writing, problem solving, a knowledge of human history, and the use of innate reasoning skills to the best of their abilities. If we truly want to equalize educational opportunity for children of all economic levels, “free” needs to really mean free from monetary obligation. Green Forest Schools has figured this out. Bravo! Now if they could just put that show on the road!
— Cara Sroges