What is happening in our country?
In Wisconsin it has gotten really ugly. The governor there is determined to make his point and, I guess, show himself to be some kind of GOP superstar. The teachers have agreed to take big cuts in their health care as the Governor wants. Not enough.
If collective bargaining is the problem, Governor, why single out teachers? Why not police or firefighters or state troopers? Oh right, they supported your campaign and teachers didn't. (Luckily some of those groups have come to their senses because if you break one union, then buddy, yours is next.)
Honestly, let's set aside whether we think unions are a good idea or have morphed into self-serving adult groups who are totally selfish. Let's talk fairness.
It was one thing when teachers were named as the number one reason that some think education in our country is failing (it's not). It's another thing when teachers' contracts are named as the number one reason for failing state budgets. Again, like saying poor test scores or failing schools are the fault of teachers, how can one single group of people be solely responsible for failing state budgets?
David Brooks, in a recent NY Times column called "The New Normal" talks about what slash and burn budget cutting might do.
The first one, as I tried to argue last week, is: Make Everybody Hurt. The sacrifice should be spread widely and fairly. A second austerity principle is this: Trim from the old to invest in the young. We should adjust pension promises and reduce the amount of money spent on health care during the last months of life so we can preserve programs for those who are growing and learning the most.
But he points out that seniors vote so you can't cut their benefits (and I have an 87 year old mother so I'm aware of what I'm saying). So what to cut?
Under their budget, financing for early-childhood programs would fall off a cliff. Tens of thousands of kids, maybe hundreds of thousands, would have their slots eliminated midyear.
Out in the states, the situation is scarcely better. Many governors of both parties are diverting money from schools in thoughtless and self-destructive ways. Hawaii decided to cut the number of days in the school year. Of all the ways to cut education, why on earth would you reduce student time in the classroom?
And what does Arne Duncan suggest(and please tell me how this would work out at your school):
For example, he says, if we have to increase class sizes, we should put more kids in with the best teachers and then we should pay those teachers more to compensate for the extra load. Most of us parents would rather see our kids in a class of 30 with a great teacher than a class of 25 with an average one.
We all know what would happen here - massive fighting over who gets the "better" teacher and anguished parents wondering if the smaller class with the "lesser" teacher will be okay or an overcrowded class with the "better" teacher?
A couple of famous people have weighed in. Matt Damon, the actor, recently said about President Obama's education reforms:
'He's doubled down on a lot of things, going back to education... the idea that we're testing kids and we're tying teachers salaries to how kids are performing on tests, that kind of mechanized thinking has nothing to do with higher order. We're training them, not teaching them.'