Budgets are tight, so why is it always schools that suffer? Don’t politicians realize that you get out what you put in?
I want to talk about 3 things here. One is very positive. Two are very negative.
First, the positive. The Nation’s Report Card 2009 is out. Things are pretty bad. Science education, of course, is terrible. What’s more, no one seems to care. There is one bright spot though.
In urban schools, 14 out of 17 scored worse than the national average in 4th and 8th grade science. Overall, Austin and Charlotte, N.C. did the same as the nation (no large city did better than the nation as a whole). The bright spot is Louisville Kentucky. They also did the same as the nation (while 14 other cities all did worse than the nation).
The Louisville Kentucky area school district places their results squarely on a 15 million dollar grant from General Electric. So it seems, education is a problem you can throw money at.
Now for the bad.
Every research study ever has shown that students in larger classes do not get as good an education as students in smaller classes. Yet, what’s the first thing that school districts cut? Teachers, thereby increasing class sizes.
I think every school district in the nation is cutting teachers right now. Rumor has it that Texas could lose 100,000 teachers to layoffs. This is happening in other areas too. Texas school districts want to eliminate the Texas law that restricts elementary and kindergarten classes to 22 students. In other words, kindergarten classes with 30-35 kids are coming up, if this gets through. Just think about how much education a 5-year-old could get in a class with 35 other kids.
It gets worse. Here are two articles (here and here) about school districts just outright firing or laying off all the teachers. Yep, every present teacher in these school districts will probably not be teaching in the Fall. Why?
I think there are several reasons. Most places have teacher pay based on seniority. It’s called a step-raise. A first year teacher gets pretty crappy pay. Each year, that pay increases, until they get to max pay around 20-30 years of service. Well, if you fire all the teachers, then you only have to hire first or second year teachers, saving, easily, 60% of your pay budget.
The other reason has to do with collective bargaining. If you get rid of all the teachers, then there is no union (effectively) in that school district anymore, until it gets organized, which can take a long time.
The biggest problem here is that teachers are the least able to deal with this kind of thing. When my dad went on strike, he knew months in advance, he saved and we survived pretty well until the strike was over. Teachers didn’t see this coming and just don’t have the kind of money to weather a year-long strike.
However, that would be the best possible stand teachers and parents could make. Stand against politics by helping teachers survive a strike. That means no school in Fall 2011. None nowhere. Without a strong stand like this, teachers and education in the US are doomed. Well, that is public education. Private schools are much more able to weather this kind of thing, though the teachers there tend to be paid much less (depending on the school) and not everyone can afford to send their kid to private school.
Please forgive the disjointed nature of this post. I remain sick.