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Bret Wooten: The Value Of Public Schools

Several months ago, we heard from a listener after a state legislator talked about the great potential in charter schools.  Bret Wooten felt more should be said about the great potential offered by traditional public schools.  Here’s his commentary.

I have a degree in industrial electronics, a U.S. patent, had my poetry published, managed thousands of people as the director of a billion dollar company, visited all 50 states and five countries. Now, I am a husband, father and small business owner.

Oh yeah, and I’m dumb.

At least that is the way I thought of myself until third grade. Where Mrs. Nickolas my teacher sat down in front of me and asked me to read a passage to her. I knew I could not read it. So, I hung my head and told her. “I was dumb and could not do it.” Her reaction was a quick hug. Then, she then looked me in the eyes and said, “We are going to fix that.” That year I was diagnosed with dyslexia and placed into a class that helped me learn to deal with this common disability. There is no cure or pill for this, and I am still a slow reader, often finding myself spelling much like the Chick-fil-A cows. However, I have no doubt that my third grade teacher changed my life that day.

When you think about the scale of what public education offers, it is truly amazing and something we should all be proud of. Beyond, the core class’s public schools offer sports of all kinds, music, arts, libraries, clubs, and numerous opportunities for advanced learner. Or the special education programs that millions of children benefit from. But all of these programs are endanger of being minimized or eliminated in Texas.

I have watched politicians and other unqualified people bash the public education system in this country as they ask schools to do more with less.

I never thought I would see the day when our education system would be treated as a pawn in politics and teachers would be faulted for executing the direction of those same politicians. But, the thing that I find most troubling is that some people are cheering them on. Knowing children will pay for their tax cuts through higher class sizes and less effective programs.

Our children are growing up in a globalized world. They are already in an intellectual war with. Countries like China are producing five times the engineering students that the U.S. did this past year. There has never been a time when we as parents can offer so much to our children. We have an intellectual infrastructure that is truly amazing. Think about the access to information an I-pad or smart phone brings to the mix and how items like these can compliment our existing education system. Tools like these get confused as replacements for teacher they should instead be thought of as tools for children to learn and compete on a global market.

Unlike politicians, teachers will be held responsible for these children. Unlike politicians, teachers will have to look children in the eyes every day knowing more could be done. How many kids like me will sit across the table from a teacher like Mrs. Nickolas in the next few years and nothing will happen - simply because of inadequate funding, poor leadership and no accountability at the state level. Because we let that happen.

These kids can be a productive part of society or a burden to it. I feel very fortunate to say I never really needed a hand out. But there was a time, in the third grade, I did need hand up and it was there; reaching out for me. Please, get informed and involved. I am one story; there are millions like me out there right now.

Bret Wooten is a small business owner from Lewisville.