I often think my best blog ideas come from my friends and former students. Tonight I was reading about the concerns of a former student, now a teacher, regarding her state's cut of educational funding. The state had managed to avoid slashing salaries, although it froze raises and cut money from retirement funding. "I wish," she said, "that more parents understood the effect this cut is going to have on their children."
Amen to that. Let's face it, economics and government aren't exactly the highlights of most parents' priorities. Unfortunately, our lawmakers count on the common person's ignorance when planning and passing laws regarding all sorts of things. Right now, our economy is so incredibly stressed that most Americans have the perspective of "just make it stop!" I know on more than one occasion, as I've pondered how exactly I'll make my COBRA payment or where I can get the job I need, I've been tempted to just forget about my responsibilities as a citizen and worry about my own backyard, instead of the entire block.
And often that's what we're encouraged to do--pay attention to our own issues and not to others--and that kind of individualistic thinking, in my opinion, is part of the reason we're in the situation we're in right now. When the majority of our citizens are more worried about their own checkbooks than where the money we pool together is going, then funding gets cut from important programs. Yep, education.
As a teacher who has had experience in the public school system, let me give you some examples of what funding cuts mean for your child. First, you can expect larger class sizes and less one to one instruction. Because the classes are larger, teachers will be more likely to teach to the middle of the group; kids who are in need of a little more attention or are gifted will receive less specialized education. When teachers are ill, schools will begin to split classes in order to save money by avoiding having to pay substitute teachers.
Extracurricular programs get cut; the arts will experience a similar loss. Expect to see unemployment rise in the areas of art, music, support staff, and sports/physical education. My personal opinion is that a lot of parents don't understand the value of the arts and physical education in schools. Not only do the arts teach children aesthetics, the value of a strong art education teaches children they have the power to create and to stretch; to imagine and to bring their imaginings to life. It teaches an understanding and appreciation of fine artists who have come before and what and why their art was great. Exposure to the arts, beginning at a young age, helps to create an appreciation that will last for a lifetime. Musical experiences not only encourage language skills, pitch, and a variety of different skills involved in music creation. And physical education not only serves to teach gross motor skills, it also encourages children to relieve stress, build confidence, and build healthy bodies.
It would be nice to open up the paper and read an article that your average parent can understand instead of a ton of legaleze and educational jargon meaning nothing. At least that's what I tell myself, because I refuse to believe that any parent would want their child to be in a crowded classroom with fewer teachers, less technology, fewer library books, fewer materials in general to work with, in exchange for the rich guys getting richer.
Well, we all have hope in something.