I have been inspired this past year to hear stories on a daily basis about the work educators are doing to reach out to encourage students (and their parents) to enroll in school. Teachers, counselors, and principals have all made home visits, in the midst of a pandemic, to find lost students. In fact, numerous superintendents and principals have told me they have visited every single home of students who didn’t show up for school.
Educators have taken school buses loaded with pizza to low income apartments to invite people out to talk to them about the importance of coming to school. They have tracked down lost students through friends and cousins and neighbors. They have used social media, running campaigns designed to encourage students to return to school. They have held “parent nights” to provide resources to families to help children in their communities. Some districts have reached out to preschools and daycares to ask them to help get the word out that “We want you back in school!” All of this in spite of the fact that enrolling children in schools is ultimately the responsibility of parents, not educators.
As an educator for 28 years, I have been inspired by these stories, but not surprised. These kinds of #AboveAndBeyond acts by educators are performed every school year. Educators always go the extra mile to encourage students to attend school because they are driven by a sense of mission and service for children and their communities. They will continue to do so because it is the right thing to do.
So I am so disheartened to hear a narrative swirling around that schools haven’t worked hard enough to bring missing students back to schools during the pandemic. Word is that hold harmless funding for schools could be withheld because enrollments have dropped. Some groups pushing this narrative are even going so far as to say schools should undergo budget cuts due to shrinking enrollments.
Are we actually thinking of “defunding education” during a global pandemic in which we have put educators on the frontlines to help keep our economy open? When districts are already having to dip into their reserves to be able to provide instruction in-person and remotely? Educators, schools, and students deserve better.
While I know how busy you are ACTUALLY serving children, we must counter this narrative that could ultimately hurt students by withholding or reducing funding for schools. It is important that state legislators hear directly from you. They need to hear exactly how you have worked to bring students back to school, to keep them learning, during this pandemic.
I invite you to not only contact your senator and representatives directly, but also to join two social media campaigns intended to set the record straight. Raise Your Hand Texas’ #AboveAndBeyond campaign was created to get the word out about the lengths districts are going to find students who are not showing up to school, either in-person or virtually. #FindOurFutureTX is another campaign that asks teachers and other educators to “show their work” when it comes to the efforts they have made to find, re-engage, and educate every student.
Please encourage those you know who are doing this important work to use social media platforms to describe and provide specific examples of the work they have been doing to get students enrolled in school. Ask them to use the hashtags #AboveAndBeyond and #FindOurFutureTX so that we can amplify these efforts on social media. We need to raise awareness of the heroic steps that teachers, counselors, principals, and other school employees are taking.
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