by Shadra L. Bruce
Everywhere you turn in this country, teachers are getting a bad rap. In Idaho, they’ve passed a bill to cut teachers in place of laptops and online education. In New York, school districts are slashing teachers while paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for each small town to have is own Superintendent. The story is the same everywhere you turn: teachers have a tarnished image.
Wherever you live, whether you have kids in the school systems or not, you ought to be paying attention to what is going on with the education budget. Not only does education have an impact on individual health, there is no one thing more likely to stabilize and grow the U.S. economy than a well educated, competitive work force.
No, teachers should not get to keep their jobs just because they’ve been teaching for a long time and have earned tenure (which should go away). But implementing a high-quality, standardized national education system (no, we don’t have one now) is crucial.
What we are seeing on the national level with the budget, as the conservatives choose to target those least likely to be able to protect, defend, and advocate for themselves with cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other “entitlement” programs (we should be entitled to equal access to education, healthcare, and representation), is what we are starting to see at the local school district level as well.
Superintendents and school boards are building budgets that prioritize protecting their own high salaries, perks, and benefits at the expense of those who cannot fight back: students with special needs, students who benefit from arts and music programs, and teachers who perform but don’t have tenure.
We do have to make changes. If we have to make cuts, start looking at ways districts can be more efficient. Look at ways to combine small districts together. I think most parents wouldn’t even care if transportation budgets were targeted. Ten minutes longer on the school bus would be worth having a class size of 18 instead of 40, wouldn’t it?
Even though I’m not very good at math, I can do the math here:
- From 2001 to 2010, we spent $1,291,000,000,000 on trying to recreate the world in our image in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- We have 3,823,142 teachers in the United States. Their average annual salaries are $44,053.55.
- If we took the $1.291 trillion dollars that we spent on war and put it into education, we could pay every teacher in the United States their full annual salary for SEVEN full years.
It is time to stop prioritizing everything but the home front and start worrying about protecting democracy here.