Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Great Education...Fact is Many Local Communities Cannot Afford It

The Chicago teachers strike is now in its second day with both sides wanting to point fingers at the other with children seemingly caught in the middle.  Teachers want certain protections...IE, who gets called back and when (seniority), while those on the other side want the right to call back who they want when they want, claiming they want to call back to work the BEST TEACHERS FIRST.  Being a bit jaded, would guess here that the Chicago School Board wants to call back first those teachers that cost them less, rehiring the newer younger teachers while abandoning those who have paid their dues.  

However, that is not the focus of this article, just as the the strike in Chicago is not the problem, but rather a symptom of a far larger problem...the very real fact that many school systems in the best of times, let alone the worst of times simply cannot afford to give our children a quality education under the current funding system where a large part of the budget comes from property taxes assessed to those who own homes in the local school district.  Being honest, being a man of modest means, and having no children, and looking at the already far too expensive property taxes here in Sullivan County, I would vote against any new school levy.  Not because I don't want children getting a great education, but because I simply cannot afford an increase in taxes...or for those renting, could not afford the increased tent a landlord would charge to cover those additional costs.

Contrary to what some politicians and leaders express, I am one that feels our teachers are both under valued, and under paid.  Yes, they get summers off, all major holidays, and I know the argument that they are getting 12 months pay for around eight months work...problem is, those who give voice to this argument are missing some basic facts.  A teachers job does not begin and end with the start and finish of the school day.  How many teachers have to come in early and stay late because they care about their students, are going above and beyond the call of duty by being at school for various events, and school functions.  How many teachers finish dinner and then go off alone to grade papers, or to work on their learning plans preparing for the next day's class?  We think nothing of a Wall Street Weasel earning north of a quarter million dollars a year, yet when it comes to those people that will give our children the quality education they deserve, we want to claim teachers are underpaid?

There is the rub...we want our children to get a quality education, but when it comes to taking care of those that provide it, we balk at the cost, and when it comes to funding education, many of us are going to vote against it because our own middle class pocketbooks cannot afford another raise on the expenditure side of our own budgets.  The whole equation comes down the haves verse the have not,s with those fortunate to live, attend school, and/or work in wealthy neighborhoods getting what it is they need, while those in poorer communities find themselves coming up empty handed, property owners, teachers and students alike all getting the short end of the stick.

In Chicago, I side with the teachers...they deserve to be paid well, and they deserve job security.  I understand the school system's problem...in these hard economic times, the money is just not there, and they know they can probably rehire two young (unproven) teachers for every teacher that has maybe 20 or 30 years of experience under their belt...simply stated, for them it is a matter of numbers though they will not admit it.  Problem is, such an approach is not fair to those who have paid their dues, put in the time necessary to get where they are at.  Last in, first out when it comes to layoffs has stood the test of time, is the only fair way to approach call backs, which means the real problem is finding MORE MONEY in hard economic times.

The solution from my perspective...when it comes to funding schools, eliminate local rule.  Create a National School Tax that is EQUALLY distributed to every school system in America so that we eliminate the inequality that is a byproduct of funding our children's educations through local property taxes.  Let us do away with a funding mechanism that creates haves and have not's, let us eliminate a educational system that allows privileged children to excel, while penalizing bright young minds who are unfortunate enough to have been born poor.  Let us also allow those with children, especially those with large families to pay a tax that reflects their usage of the educational system.  It is unfair to ask someone with no children to pay the same school tax as someone with say five children.

Perhaps such an approach would create a system where every child had an equal chance at a quality education while at the same time reining in a population growth that is out of control.  After all, how many families would choose to have say 2-3 kids instead of 5-7 if they knew they were going to have to start paying their fair share of the bill for educating their children?