I heard two interesting statistics in separate stories the other day on CNN. Eighty percent of all of the schools in the country are making big cuts in their staffing for the next school year because of financial problems. And America has 5113 nuclear weapons. Where are our priorities? The government throws all of this money into bombs that can destroy the earth many times over –because obviously one or two are not enough. Would anyone even be around to press the button on number 5113?
But the bigger question is why we are so quick to cut our education system that is already so poorly funded as it is. It’s not as if we are Singapore, Hong Kong, or Korea, and we are on top. We are above Indonesia and Iran, but is that the best we can do?
We never have to vote on war levies or military levies. We have no choice over what or how much comes out of our income for that, and yet, in an economic depression, we are asked if we can pay more for schools. Why is it even a question? Who set the system up this way?
Cutting 10% of the education staff including teachers and administrators (like what is happening in Cleveland, Ohio) hurts everyone. The teachers are out of jobs, and collecting unemployment and any other assistance they may qualify for. Their spouses and families, most likely will not have health care. The teachers who still have jobs, have much more work for that same pay (of course raises are frozen). And students who are already spilling out of rooms, are even more packed in, meaning a lot less personal attention. The graduation rate in Cleveland is at 33% percent right now. How is cutting staff a solution for anything?
There is an experimental charter school in Washington Heights, NYC that has been proving the theory that paying teachers more can make a better school. They believe that one fabulous teacher is worth more than all the technology and low student numbers you can provide. So far they are right. They pay their teachers a starting salary of $125,000 with bonuses. They work longer days, and have many more responsibilities than an average inner-city, but they are the best of the best. Eight teachers were finally picked out of 600 resumes. If you are regarded as part of a dream team, you will rise up to the bar. We haven’t been able to see the long-term effects yet, but I heard the waiting list for this public school is very long.
So, dear government, could we reassess our priorities, please? Let’s shift some money around, and focus on our primary education system, because at the risk of sounding cliché, it really is our future.