Monday, September 14, 2009

Punishing America’s Children

It’s post-Labor Day! School’s in session for most of America. But for about a dozen states, with state fiscal deficits (an estimated cumulative $165 billion this year) shattering local government’s ability to sustain even the mediocre educational standards this country is becoming famous for, even the $100 billion of educational aid allocated by Congress to support our nation’s school systems is not enough to stop massive layoffs of teachers, contraction of teaching programs and school-related activities and an explosive growth in the size of the average classroom. Betraying our children, equipping them with an even worse education to survive in a world of increasing competition, is unacceptable. The impact of these educational deficits may last a lifetime… or more.

The September 8th New York Times: “In Arizona, which is suffering one of the nation’s worst fiscal crises, some classrooms were jammed with nearly 50 students when schools reopened last month, and the norm for Los Angeles high schools this fall is 42.5 students per teacher… Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest district, sent layoff notices to 8,850 teachers, counselors and administrators last spring. Bolstered by stimulus money, it recently rehired some 6,700 of them, leaving about 2,150 demoted to substitute teaching or out of work. Hundreds of districts across California laid off a total of more than 20,000 teachers, according to the California Teachers Association.”

The numbers across various states are staggering. “In Michigan, the Detroit schools’ emergency financial manager closed 29 schools and laid off 1,700 employees, including 1,000 teachers. Arizona school districts laid off 7,000 teachers in the spring, but stimulus money helped them rehire several thousand. Tucson Unified, for instance, laid off 560 teachers, but rehired 400… Florida’s second-largest system, Broward County Schools, laid off 400 teachers, but aided by stimulus money, rehired more than 100. In Washington State, many districts let employees go; Seattle laid off about 50 teachers… About half of the 160 school superintendents from 37 states surveyed by the American Association of School Administrators said that despite receiving stimulus money, they were forced to cut teachers in core subjects. Eight out of 10 said they had cut librarians, nurses, cooks and bus drivers.”

But wait, there’s more! With union rules, it’s not always the good teachers who are retained and those not as qualified let go. It’s a meat axe, where seniority often rules. Can we really afford this “plan of action”? And if we wait to find out the impact of our folly in a few years, won’t it all be too little, too late?

We have a sick educational system, a crumbled educational infrastructure… the great democratic “equalizer” – public education – has become profoundly inferior (on average) than the private school alternative. So if you’re rich and can afford that private route for your kids… If you aren’t, watch America’s new downward mobility take root.

I’m Peter Dekom, and I approve, sadly, this message.

No comments: