Last year, my first-born was in enrolled in our local public school in second grade, and although he spent 6 or 7 hours there each day, he came home with tons of homework and a good deal more learning remaining. I started to think, “Why am I sending my kids to school, when the school sends them back to me to educate?” A friend later complained to me that when they gave her son a book report, it meant at least 5 hours of her own time working on it with him. Another parent told me how great the tutoring was at the chain store down the street from her. All this got me to thinking: if I’m ultimately in charge of my kids’ education, why do I feel so powerless?
I assumed that the government knows best what, and how, to teach my kids. It’s an assumption I was raised with, one I never challenged, until now. Well, you know what they say about you when you assume…
This recent economic collapse has dragged me, kicking and screaming, to question the efficacy and intelligence of the body comprised of our representatives in Washington. I mean, since the housing calamity, we now have the lowest percentage of home ownership since the 1960’s. This, after all the manipulations Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, and Fanny Mae implemented to make housing more “affordable”. (It’s very affordable now!) Thanks to their good intentions, and the rest of the spenders in Washington, the economy is in the tank, we don’t have a balanced budget, and don’t even get me started on the deficit. Most of us agree that something is seriously wrong in government. It cannot balance its own checkbook, so it prints more money. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s a problem for me.
Suffice it to say, my long-standing assumptions about education are crumbling under new scrutiny. Is our failing government really where we ought to turn for guidance? Should our tax dollars be funneled through an inefficient bureaucracy, sifted by one of the most powerful unions (teachers) ever to lobby in Washington, and filtered down, diluted, back to our children and neighborhood schools? Then again, why is education an entitlement provided by the US government? Why are we tolerating the scam that there is no more money for our schools (or the swindle that money will fix them,) while duly elected officials continue to send money overseas to fund things like “Worldwide Cultural Preservation” – more than $20 million since 2001?
FOLLOW THE MONEY
In California, the biggest teachers union spent $212 million over the past decade on politics – lobbying, specifically. Make no mistake: that money was, at one point, tax dollars. Minnesota schools start after Labor Day because the Tourism and State Fair lobbyists insist it is a crucial weekend for tourism dollars. Money runs the show, and that’s why many are convinced it can fix the system. Unfortunately, that’s exactly why the system’s broke’ (and can’t be fixed.)
Teachers’ unions protect teachers’ jobs, to the detriment of learning. A teacher can be removed from the classroom as a result of, for example, alleged misconduct or failure to follow the curriculum. That teacher then receives full pay while awaiting the administrative review process, which takes somewhere between a long time and forever. Last year, idle teachers reportedly cost New York State $30 million, because union laws prevented their dismissal. In one year alone! That’s a lot of computer labs and art classes. One teacher, who allegedly told a student she had a “sexy body”, continued to collect his $100,000 salary while he ran a law practice and real estate business, because they couldn’t fire him. Also in 2009, LAUSD was paying full salaries to some 160 teachers who were waiting for accusations of misconduct to be resolved. Those were the teachers who were not teaching, and we foolishly complain about the ones who are. To add insult to insufferable injury, our schools’ budgets are being cut. Perhaps there’s just not enough money to pay all the teachers for not teaching our kids. The good news is last month President Obama signed a $26 billion bill to save teacher (and other public servant) jobs. Boy, some lobbyists are really happy now!
I wouldn’t call my congresswoman if my washing machine repairman didn’t fix the washer, but I wouldn’t write him a check, either. And yet, we keep writing the checks, hoping to fix education. It’s a money pit, folks.
Although government is illogical, inefficient and often downright stupid, the government assures us it is the answer. Of course. That’s called job-security. It must present itself as the only entity capable of addressing all the challenges of life. “Give me your money, and I will take care of everything,” is the government’s unspoken motto. And we the childish populous want to believe in big daddy government, because, uhm, something about safety in numbers, I think. So, how’s that working for us so far?
It isn’t. Our public schools are failing. Dropouts occur earlier now than ever before: in junior high and middle school. LAUSD has a 54% drop-out rate, starting as low as fifth grade. In a 2008 evaluation, our teens ranked below average in understanding math and science, behind Estonia and Croatia, among many others. The good news is, if someone were going to come here illegally (for a free education,) maybe now he’ll think twice.
My friend’s kid goes to one of the top-rated public schools. Helloooo… compared to what? The best of the worst is still one of the worst.
To be continued…
This article first appeared on BigGovernment.com/ssorbo.