SUFS president Doug Tuthill: ‘Get serious about this equity conversation’

Donna Winchester

In a recent interview with WFSU Public Media news director Lynn Hatter, Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill spoke about his first-hand experience with segregation as a student in the 1970s as well as his experience as an educator on the front lines of the magnet school movement in the 1990s.

While much progress has been made over the years to address the challenges faced by minority and low-income students, Tuthill told Hatter, there’s room for more progress.

Among the challenges that still need to be addressed: continued customization of education experiences and expanded equity for all students by expansion of scholarship options to ensure that money is not a barrier to a quality education.

“Choice isn’t going away,” Tuthill said. “The question is, can we manage choice in such a way that there’s  not a have and have-not … How do we make sure that kids don’t get left behind?”

The new frontier in education choice, Tuthill explained, will be education scholarship accounts that allow parents to have their child’s education funding deposited into an account they can use to pay for private school tuition, online courses, tutoring, dual enrollment and after-school enrichment opportunities.

Tuthill sees these accounts as crucial for creating equity and opportunity.

“It’s not rational to think that schools are capable of dealing with generational poverty by themselves,” he told Hatter. “You can’t expect teachers working with kids six hours a day, 180 days a year to deal with all the inequities that are in society that kids are having to deal with.”

ESAs, Tuthill explained, help level the playing field not only by giving families more equitable access when it comes to choosing schools, but also by providing access to opportunities beyond the school day – opportunities such as after-school arts programs, tutoring and summer camps that typically are available only to middle-income and more affluent families.

“I’m hoping we can get serious about this equity conversation and that we get serious about making sure families have resources, not just in terms of school choice, but in terms of education choice,” he told Hatter.

In other words: creating and expanding opportunities that transcend schools.

To listen to a 5-minute outtake of the full interview, click here.


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