According to my morning paper, 58,000 teachers were laid off nationwide and won't be in classrooms this year. Without the stimulus funding, the number would have been greater, and in some districts, teachers were not rehired even though the money was available. The national conversation right now in political circles is to loudly lament the declines in American education and engage in a lot of finger pointing. The problem seems clear to me, though. Talk is cheap, but we spend our money on what we really value. Hypocrisy, anyone?
All of your postings resonate with me. And all of it brings one thought back to me more than anything else. As someone said earlier: talk is cheap. I'm tired of having administrators and school board members talk about how the children are the most important thing.
Anyone in the classroom knows this is not true. Money is the most important thing to these people. That and power. Let's not forget test scores: who is being tested: the student or the educational system?
If you want your children to flourish, provide smaller class sizes, support funding for more materials, classes to instruct teachers in methods that are proven effective in engaging students, and tell the parents of students that you support your teachers. In that teachers generally see these kids more than their parents do, and not only instruct but many times raise these kids, it boggles the mind at how ignorant the people in charge of education are.
Let's make a law that states that any cuts in education must mirror cuts in politicians' salaries. Increased funding for schools should be based on politicians' cost-of-living and salary increases.
One aspect of this problem that I have not seen addressed thus far is that of inclusion or mainstreaming. Once upon a time, students with various disabilities or problems were labeled "Special Ed" and relegated to a basement where one teacher, who had no expectations of them, babysat for the entire school day. And this was true during the early school years of the baby boomers, a time during which there was a significant bulge in the population. (I was there.) This arrangement meant that resources were focused on those who had no problems, which meant that those particular students did receive time and attention and for the most part, did quite well. In short, children were tracked.
The climate has changed significantly. Tracking is frowned upon, and to the degree it does exist, it is not acknowledged. Mainstreaming is required by law to the highest degree possible. I applaud this climate, but there are insufficient resources allocated to achieve the effect sought. Instead of leaving no child behind, we have left all children behind, not willing to put our money where our mouths are.
One of my adult night students told me earlier this week that the classroom aides in her daughter's school had been cut by 75% for this school year. This is occurring all over the country, in addition to all the other cutbacks that are happening. If this problem is not addressed, I fear that we will once again be back to a two-tiered system, in which we focus on the easiest successes and leave the rest to their own devices.
This is a demoralizing time to be a student, parent, or teacher. But I refuse to give up on us.
In response to the argument that "the money's not there," here is my point. IF education were really the priority politicians and everybody else SAYS it is, the money would BE there. (Forgive the caps; I'm not yelling, just emphasizing.) Again, we (individually and as a society) spend our money on what we really value (as individuals or as politicians). Politicians, it seems to me, spend our money to satisfy those with the most influence: They most value their own reelection. Children have no influence, and the voices of those of us who really do value them and understand what they need are disregarded.
The sad and continuing fact is that teachers are not generally respected in our society and the work we do is not truly recognized by the vast majority as being essential to our society and even our national survival.
Someone here used the term "schizophrenia." Well put. Another kind of schizophrenia I've noticed lately is this: One one hand, we preach the value of education, while on the other, those in our society with the very best educations are now dismissed in some circles as "elitists"! How, in a civilized society, can anyone be criticized for having too much education? Do we really value education in this country or not?
Here in NZ we are pursuing work-to rule type actions due to the government not listening to our demands for the usual conditions - a fair ceiling on class sizes, professional development to keep up with the whirlwind of changes to education (we have new National Standards to introduce: shame they are limited to what we deliver in the classroom, not what the government delivers to us facilitators...) etc.
However, the media focused on the 'huge' pay claim put in during a recession - forgetting that actually the pay request was to keep up with inflation, and the other demands about conditions and providing an appropriate environment to develop the next generation were our real priority.
It seems we get a bad deal all over...
It's hypocrisy of the worst kind at the highest level. Politicians find it easy to cut funding and blame the teachers for the failure of student academic standards, but I think today's parents are a big part of this problem. Today's parents don't seem to back teachers as others have in the past, and they seem willing to accept their children's excuses for sub-standard performance--resulting in their own decision to back many of the politicians ready and willing to make more cuts in educational funding.
It's a very American brand of schizophrenia - we want good quality schools, are going to get tougher on students and teachers in terms of expectations .... and we DON'T want to pay for it. We are building a new local baseball stadium though with voter-approved bonds. This runs through my mind as I wonder when the portable I teach in will be condemned (sooner rather than later) and how my $87 requisition request for classroom supplies was turned down for lack of funds. I still love teaching, but I would say morale overall is very low. We don't feel very valued by parents, government or society, even as they expect a lot from us.
Oh Yeah! This really gets to me. I hear nothing but complaints about the state of education in this country. And it always seems to be the fault of teachers and their unions. They seem to think that the big problem is unions protecting bad teachers and the answer is to do away with unions in order to get rid of bad teachers and the whole state of education will be great. In California, education spending has been cut by $17 billion overe the last couple of years. No one seems to think that this might be a problem.
If as a society we can not find a way to fund the education of our youth we are in for worse times ahead. We have to be able to provide a quality education to all youth as these are the people who will ultimately and eventually be responsible for our country.
This is exactly why I laugh out loud whenever I hear of states pleading with the citizens to pass the lottery "for education". The first thing the states do is take away what was in the budget previously for education and give the lottery money to schools. This doesn't ever mean that the current budget stays and is supplemented with lottery money--if that's what really happened, schools and teachers wouldn't ever want for anything, and ultimately EVERY child in that state would get the attention and education he/she deserves. That is what securing our future is all about. Taking care of the teachers insures that our students get what they need to make them productive citizens and excellent adults. Teachers do more than just teach their subject matter...they are stand-in parents, counselors, cheerleaders, social workers, and life coaches. It's time we are recognized for all we DO and not for what we can't do in the eyes of society.
Lots of rightful anger here, I think! I do believe, however, that there is money out there, it is just that those who choose how it is spent are not prioritising education and although lip service is paid to the importance of teaching, they are not putting their money where their mouth is. Unfortunately, this is not just happening in the States - education seems to be an "expendable quantity" in times of economic recession.
I think Missy575 makes a good point. If the money is not there, it's not there. One point that might be discussed, however, is that not everyone else is "taking the lumps." Even if they are, that cannot explain away why when monies were readily available in previous years that public education still had some of the lowest payscales of all degreed jobs.
I agree completely that teachers are the most valuable tool in education. But what about when the money is all gone, what do we do then? Go into great debt to continue paying teachers well? That is not responsible governace and not a solution. Cuts have to be made across the board. I am a teacher and do not like the pay-cut I received this year. I do not like seeing classroom sizes go up. I am pretty mad that my copy budget is 1000 pieces of paper for my 160 students a semester. HOWEVER, my state is not going into debt nor is it near bankruptcy. These are fiscally responsible actions. Sometimes life is tough, but it is tough for everyone right now and I can take my lumps if everyone else is.
Yup. What else can it be called? The money schools do get should be spent on the most valuable tools in education--teachers. Instead, what money there is often goes to pay for top-heavy administrations or programs that are only ancillary to what's happening in the classrooms. I blame the union for some of this, as I do administration nationwide. Teacher as textbook is where it's at--but it's not always where the money is.