With more and more cuts from the state, schools are being forced to make difficult choices in what/who to keep and what to let go from their budgets. It has gone way beyond cutting spending on classroom supplies and field trips, to districts eliminating transportation and cutting programs. How do you decide what to keep and what to give up? Is music more important than physical education? Is it more important to offer after-school tutoring or keep the library open?
These are decisions that should never have to be made in the first place. The wars in Iraq & Afghanistan have cost over $985,000,000,000 so far. The US alone has sent relief in the amount of $100 million to Haiti. The state of California spends over a billion dollars a year in medical care for illegal immigrants. Taxpayers foot the bill of smokers to the tune of $10 billion a year.
But schools are being forced to decide whether to put 35 kindergartners in a room or eliminate janitorial service. Our priorities in this country are out of whack. Until the general public realizes that without free quality public education, we as a society are doomed, and as a group step up and fund these institutions adequately, our country is going to become one of a larger divide between the have's and have not's.
We've forgotten that our children are out greatest resource. We've forgotten that our country was built on the principles of equal opportunities for all.
Just throwing more money at education is NOT the answer. But until schools are funded adequately, things will continue to deteriorate. Fewer college graduates will choose education as a career option, seeking more lucrative fields of employment. More people who can afford private options will seek those, further compromising the integrity of the public system. The downward spiral will become a self-fullfilling prophecy of failure and inadequacy.
What is the answer? I don't know for sure. But I have some ideas:
- Find ways to fix the system in place now for starters.
- Get rid of teachers and adminstrators who do not do their job.
- Eliminate wasteful practices and positions.
- Consolidate business operations.
- Remember the purpose of the school is to provide a quality educational experience for the students, not be an employment agency for adults.
- Work to support the whole child, providing services such as health care, counseling, and guidance.
- Provide support for parents, through parenting classes, adult education and opportunities to be a part of their child's education.
- Make sure students have and use the most current technology needed to make them competitive when they go to college or in the workforce, but stop spending on the latest and greatest tech toys, just to have them.
- Encourage teachers to learn and grow with and from each other instead of paying top dollars for 'experts' to come give 'sit and get' lectures. Provide time for embedded professional development where your best and brightest share and lead others.
And perhaps the most important place we can make improvements: change the paradigm in our society to value education. Expect excellence in students, teachers and parents. Demand excellence in students, teachers and parents. Let's work together to make systematic changes before it becomes too late.