On Monday, July 30, the ‘I Promise School’ opened its doors for 240 third- and fourth-graders, making headlines across the country. The school is a public elementary school in Akron, Ohio designed to serve struggling, low-income students and is partially funded by NBA superstar LeBron James and his foundation. Newspapers and magazines rushed to praise the school for several of its unique features and programs. They marveled over the free breakfast, lunch and snacks that the school would provide and plastered photos of James’ sneakers lining the school’s walls on their websites. They lauded the programs that would allow parents to take courses to complete their GED and give each graduate of the school free college tuition at the University of Akron.
To the American public, these features are revolutionary and headline-worthy. They provide generous assistance and much-needed resources to at-risk students with unique features that have yet to be implemented on a national scale. But to the people of other developed countries in the world, the programs of the ‘I Promise School’ are anything but new and novel – they’re the norm.
Yes, some of the features like the free bike given to each student and displays of James’ shoes are unique to the halls of the school. But the school’s other accomplishments — like free meals and free college tuition — are all regarded as basic necessities by the political systems of foreign countries. In Germany, everyone can study at a public college without paying a cent, relieving the pressures of student debt off his or her shoulders. In Finland, healthy school lunches are provided to every student, free of charge.
These necessary programs have been instrumental in helping students succeed around the world and they’re programs that the United States is sorely lacking. The American public education system is failing its young students, often leaving the lower-income students behind. The amount of funding a public school receives relies on the income level of its inhabitants, forcing economically disadvantaged students to lower quality schools because of their parents’ economic status. Burdened by student debt and loans, less affluent young adults are struggling to continue their educations.
The fact that the programs of the ‘I Promise School’, which are so commonplace in other nations, seem revolutionary to the inhabitants of the wealthiest nation in the world is alarming. We need to invest more in the futures of our young students and provide basic social services to their families. LeBron James is taking the right step in working to do this for his hometown, but it shouldn’t be up to a wealthy celebrity to grant people basic rights that they’re entitled to. We should applaud James for his actions, but we must also encourage lawmakers to follow in his footsteps. The day we commend education in America should be the day when every young student has access to the resources and programs provided by the ‘I Promise School’.