Last week was a hard week to be a public educator. Between what is happening locally and nationally my frustration level is at an all time high. At a local level, my school like many other schools across the country has been hit by extraordinary cuts in state aide. I teach in a very small and rural school that is heavily dependent on that aid because of a small tax base. In the ten years I have been here I have seen a technology program go from two teachers to one, an art program go from two teachers to one, a home and careers program go from two teachers to one half-time teacher, and I have seen this district hire and fire at least three different physics teachers because of budget constraints. Beyond the budget woes, there have been a slew of other news items that have dishearted this normally stalwart advocate for public education. Take a look at this ad:
The tagline of this ad is “Stop listening to teacher’s unions“, and it ends with the line: “and make decisions that are gonna benefit the kids.” Put these two line together and you come up with teachers (who are represented by unions) do not make decisions that benefit kids. Maybe I’m feeling over sensitive, but this ad punched me in the gut. This ad follows on the coat tails of a front page story that was run in the Syracuse newspaper entitled: Recession doesn’t hold back Central New York teachers’ raises , normally I could have just shrugged this off as inflammatory yellow journalism written to sell copies, but look at the comments that appear below the article. Here is an example of one.
Unions are powerfull ------Better take a look around -----Who's going to pay taxes when all the business go south or go out of business .Oh by the way I think there should be a new law ----like school kids who don't own property or pay taxes shouldn't be voting on issues of school taxes. Teachers butter up the kids and get them out to vote. Same kids who vote get educated here and leave town.
These are the opinions of my neighbors who feel free to express their honest opinions under the protection of anonymity, and it seems that the only comments coming to the defense of teachers are written by teachers.
Where am I going with this rant you might ask? Certainly teachers have been under fire before as spoiled over paid babysitters. Well now I am a dad. My son is two and a half and I have begun to contemplate his education. These sentiments that I have mentioned above, coupled with the budget constraints, coupled with accountability pressures on the state and national level, coupled with unreasonable moral expectations are driving talented young teaching prospects away from the profession. All of us know that greatest variable to have an impact on a child’s education is the classroom teacher and passionate teachers take this stuff personally, how many will be left in 2 1/2 years? My son loves art and music and these seem to be the first programs to get the axe when school budgets get tight, will I have to pay for private lessons? Does this mean that arts programs become the exclusive purview of the rich?
Should I abandon public education and home school my son?