Three things happened in the past week or so that, to me, indicated that teaching and public education in this country has taken a turn for the worse. All of the protests in the past 12 months aside, if you are listening, you can see that we are heading for a very large brick wall.
LeBron James opened a school in Akron for a little under 300 students where he provided everything for free. You can read about it there, and honestly unless you’ve been living under a rock you have to have heard a little bit about it. People are heralding it as a wonderful thing, and for that community there is no doubt that it is. But that’s only 280 kids. The Akron School District is the fifth largest in Ohio and 22,000 students are enrolled in that public school system.
This is a perfect example of why education must be properly funded by all members of the community through taxation or referendum measures. One incredibly famous and rich basketball player shouldn’t be responsible for saving at-risk kids. Our tax system should be set up to support every kid in every PUBLIC school. Kids going to school is a legal requirement, we force them to be there. It should NEVER be a financial burden to do something that we are forced to do, especially when the schools catch everyone. If the community requires extra supports for uniforms and food and transportation, then the elected officials and councilmen need to pass measures to spread that financial need across the community so those supports are funded and provided.
The pendulum is so far in the “if I don’t use it, I don’t want my tax dollars used for it” direction, that it is getting heavy and ready to swing back the other way. People are discovering that the crumbling of things that they don’t use is starting to have an effect n things they do use, and since we are in an age where people don’t are about things that don’t directly affect them maybe they will finally help.
I don’t want Amazon schools or Microsoft schools or Beyonce schools or Oprah schools. I don’t want to put celebrities and rich people up on a pedestal and throw flowers at them and applaud because they made a school for 200 kids. I want taxes and funding to be structured in a way that ensures that they all MUST contribute. I want schools that are a public service to the community that the community (businesses, individuals, families, etc) invests in with the understanding that an educated populace pays the community back by becoming responsible, informed citizens that will contribute to the world and continue the cycle.
I am in my first week of school right now. In the first week teachers are in the schools alone setting up their classrooms and planning. This year I moved to a school that is a Title 1 school. This means that the population is at-risk and a high percentage of free and reduced lunch students. Apparently some teachers here are not…sensitive(?) to this situation, and so on the very first day we were put through what the Title 1 Facilitator from the district office called a poverty simulation.
Before I talk about that, two days before this activity the district sent out an email about a “storefront” that they usually have for things like families who can’t afford uniforms or kids who can’t afford prom dresses. Only this year they have opened it to teachers because they assumed that we have spent SO MUCH ON OUR CLASSROOMS THAT WE CAN’T AFFORD PROFESSIONAL WORK CLOTHES FOR OURSELVES. The email even included that accessories and shoes would be available.
So two days after receiving this email I am forced to participate in this poverty simulation to teach me, a teacher who might not even be able to afford their own work clothes, how to survive on not enough money and dodging obstacles that poor people face (car breaking down, kids in trouble at school, renewing food stamps) every day.
The tone deafness of this was amazing. You’re so poor you need charity but here’s what it’s like to be poor so you understand. I was so anxious and panicky at the end of that activity that I completely skipped the planned “debrief” because I didn’t want to hear older, less debt-ridden teachers talk about what an eye-opener the activity was and oh how hard it must be and how thankful they are to not have to deal with that kind of life. I’m trying to have a good start here and not make one million enemies, and if I had gone I would have spoken up for myself in an emotionally charged way, so it’s better I took a step back.
This only adds to my anger about how teachers and schools are funded and treated, but what really took the cake was…
…this story about how a parent bought a teacher a new car so she could get to work. A similar story about people handing money over to a teacher on a plane is just as infuriating. Isn’t it nice how you can take advantage of someone’s poverty to make yourself a nice attention grabbing Twitter/Instagram moment? Never mind that if we all paid a little bit, single individuals wouldn’t have to pay as much.
It looks like an economy car, but let’s assume it’s the next level up, like a Kia Rio – $14,000 purchase price. If I used my current district as an example:
Total residents: 459,023 people
Total teachers: ~6,000
If the tax paying residents of *** County wanted to insure that teachers had a working car to get them to work and back, each individual person would need to pay a Teachers Get a Car Tax of $182 each. Of course we could, instead of buying a car, give every teacher a $14,000 raise. And of course every person wouldn’t pay $182, that would be the average tax burden. But you get the idea.
We all have to fund this stuff. If we do, then individuals don’t have to put up tens of thousands of dollars, and everyone benefits, not just one lucky teacher like it’s some kind of crazy lottery. This isn’t a game show, this is real life.
Those 200 kids get a new chance, but how many are still suffering and falling through the cracks? That one teacher gets a new car – how much would we bet that family brings that up at the next parent teacher conference? How many other teachers are doing the same thing or are just one car repair away from figuring out a bus route?
We have to stop accepting these flash in the pan stories as enough and start demanding that education is funded so that these stories don’t happen anymore. Their presence is a red flag, and honestly I’m worried.
As if there wasn’t enough to be worried about.