Monday, February 21, 2011

The budget question

I wonder why we always seem to start with education and teachers when discussing budget cuts in a state? Someone in the twitter verse said if we put a .10 tax on beer in this state we could raise 167m in a year. Why don't we start with luxuries and "sins"? The state tax of cigarettes & booze generates millions a year...would anyone even notice if we added 10 cents to each bottle of beer, would anyone even care? Why do we seem to be so complacent when we hear that the state or local governments want to cut funding to schools, why isn't education a priority?

A story this morning on your favorite cable news network discussing how there is a projected shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teachers projected within the next 4 years and the president has put out a call for people to take up jobs as teachers in those areas. With the current situation in Wisconsin and the possibility of union busting in other states across the country, why on earth would ANYONE want to become a teacher, especially someone "smart" enough to teach a STEM subject?

My husband is a mechanical engineer and is quite possibly one of the smartest guys I know. He also has a great job as a mechanical engineer making more money than he would make if he went to work for the school district. Why would someone like him want to leave the private sector and go to work in the public sector?

Teachers work their asses off. 12 and 14 hour days are not uncommon. Many teacher spend their summer "vacation" in classes getting credits, working on masters degrees, or working a "summer" job to make ends meet. Teachers, like my dad, who are also department heads full time and have to teach part time in addition to their administrative duties never get a "summer vacation." For the majority of my life my dad worked all year, summers, breaks, teacher record days...he didnt get "days off."

From going to my kids school and dropping them off at 7am the parking lot already has at least 10 cars in it, the principal is always the 1st car in the lot..and at the end of the day when I pick my kids up at 5pm, those same cars, plus many others are still there. Teachers work. Teachers work their asses off. They spend all day educating your kids, they spend all day dealing with at least 30+ personalities, discipline issues, kids from diverse backgrounds, kids with learning disabilities, special from bad and broken families, and kids who are geniuses.

What do you deal with in your normal day? If you have kids could you imagine dealing with 30 children 8 hours + a day 5 days a week, 180 days a year? What if you are a middle or high school teacher? That means 150+ kids you need to teach. You also need to teach these kids, you are responsible for the future of this country. That is not just hyperbole, that is a fact. Our job as parents and teachers jobs as teachers is to make sure that our children are the best they can be. If we want our country to go back to being the best in the world, we need to make sure we have the most well educated kids in the world.

We need to start making education a priority, and not just lip service. We need to NOT look towards teachers and education as the place to make cuts. Teachers already make due with less and less. Fees for enrolling my kids in their "free" public education rise yearly...almost $200.00 for this year alone, which also does not take into account the endless fundraising the school asks us to do to help fund programs within the school. The school's PTO is an amazing organization which helps teachers buy supplies, smart boards, playground equipment etc...

My daughters classroom is in constant need of kleenex, paper towels, antibacterial gels and wipes and post-its for the kids to use. My kids teacher was more appreciative than I can express at my donation of a pencil sharpener to her classroom. The school can't afford an electric pencil sharpener. This is just sad.

The fact that our governor wants to get rid of all collective bargaining rights for state workers in Wisconsin is also sad. Teachers, and workers everywhere should have the right to collectively bargain for wages and benefits.

It's my hope that our governor backs away from this hard line stance against unions, compromise should not be a dirty word. Reaching hands out across the aisle is nothing to be ashamed about, working together, regardless of parties and idealogy...

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