Think Progress reports that over 700,000 teachers have been laid off over the last three years. Some will say that “fat” is being cut. If that were true, why were these teachers hired in the first place? We claim to value education and want students to learn. How is that possible if we’re cutting teachers and packing students into bigger classes? Moreover, who will want to stay in the profession of teaching? Short-termed, short-sighted thinking by our political “leaders” may have long-term consequences as fewer talented professional want to go into teaching. If we value education, we need to pay teachers well and respect them as professionals.
A country’s greatest resource isn’t its military, industry, or natural resources. Children are the future – future citizens, consumers, and workers. In an essay from Common Dreams, Diane Ravitch looks at the dollars-focused “reforms” proposed for public schools in several American cities. The most shocking might be in Detroit, where 50% of the schools are slated to be closed by 2016. Some students will be housed (not learning) in classes of 60.
Our failure to fund education, the Right’s constant attack on public schools and teachers, will have major consequences in the future. At a time when jobs demand increased knowledge and skills, we are taking resources away from education. Teachers in some of the roughest schools are having pay and benefits cut – who will want that job? Anyone who’s talking about balancing the budget and putting people back to work without supporting education is either a fool or a hypocrite.
Common Dreams has reprinted an editorial from Rethinking Schools that asks why teachers are under attack. There is a sudden panic to get rid of “bad” teachers. The editors of Rethinking Schools look behind this simple, who-can-argue-with-that statement and find a theme in our culture: wage cutting and union busting.
Rather than ask how we can make schools better or really improve how students learn, the goal behind this “school reform” meme is getting rid of teachers (cutting the budget – not raising taxes). Bad teachers in this context, the editorial argues, are the same kind of boogey man that “welfare queens” were in the 1980s. This is a political question, and the sad fact is that President Obama’s Secretary of Education, the non-educator, Arne Duncan loves all the schemes (merit pay, charter schools) that will bust unions and push down compensation.
We claim to want the best and the brightest in the classroom, especially at underperforming schools. Who will want to be a teacher if it is a job with low pay and no security? This is another money game. It has nothing to do with teaching and learning.