The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
Over the past several weeks I have struggled with what or how to write about the the current education crisis. Something that extends far beyond simple budget cuts to a downright assault on educators, their rights, pensions and livlihood. All of the latter done under the guise of the aforementioned budget cuts but with an inexplicable and irrational maliciousness that doesn't seem to come from a place of wanting more and better for students in this country. Instead the retort seems to be that the people of X state elected me for this very reason. To what? Get rid of their kid's fourth grade teacher? To really put the nail in the coffin on how little regard people have for the education profession. Of course we technically need teachers but they're not really worth the (very little) money they're paid and while we're at it, we can always replace said teacher with a laptop. Yes! Genius!
I am discouraged and disheartened as are most who have followed or been involved in the education community for some time. I'll tell you this; While I never wanted to be a teacher, I have always wanted to be an education policy wonk. Somone who is well versed in the machinations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and how it impacts state law. And now that I do just that for a living it hard for me to sit here and watch one of the most honorabl professions essentially be cast aside for wanting collective bargaining rights and some sort of security at the end of their careers.
I keep hearing about 'shared sacrifice' or, actually, lack there of. When Wall Street went bankrupt and went to the federal government for funding I do not recall such outrage at providing them with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In fact it was encouraged for without Wall Street the stock market would diminish and all of the wealthy coroporations and their CEOs would be destitute. When these budget crises began no one asked for Wall Street to give up their million dollar bonuses or their multi-million dollar salary. Yet here we are, three years later, with teachers because asked to give up their pensions, salaries and jobs all in the name of sacrifice. We have a deficit, everyone needs to tighten their belts and give something up. So why isn't Wall Street being raided?
My anger and lot in life clouds any rational thought. Then again my thought appears to be rational in that educators are the backbone for the future of this country and without quality education given by quality educators all future generations will find themselves out in the cold. It amazes me that this simple line of thinking hasn't been drilled into the heads of those governors lobbing attacks towards teachers and their formidable wealth - eye roll. Without the sacrifice of teachers and their time and their own money for often school districts cannot pay for the extras, we would all be screwed.
What keeps people rallying and moving even though they are being striked from all sides is that thought of future and the necessity of the education profession. The knowledge that what happens today will be the staging point for what occurs 10, 15, 20 years from now. Do we want to look back and say 'remember when?' When teachers were good and needed and supported? I'd much rather say that we fought hard and long and for everything that happened we prevailed. The career that should mean more than that of an NBA star really did matter. But with everything that is going on today, right now, across the country, the future seems bleak. And it's that simple fact of a shadow over the horizon that keeps so many going. Educators are good at instilling hope into a child, so it's inevitable that they have it within themselves, too.
NEA has a great resource on what is going on in what state . I encourage you to check it out.