5 days ago
Monday, August 23, 2010
BACK TO SCHOOL THOUGHTS
Fund raising events for special items like a new PA system and big screen for the multipurpose room evolved into paying the salary for a music teacher. By then the sports cost a lot of money and many of the coaches were no longer on staff, but volunteer parents. Now that my youngest is a Senior in High School - well, it has all gone to hell, hasn't it? Now we are not only paying more and more fees, there are fewer and fewer programs available. I have sent Kleenex to teachers but now some schools are asking parents to sent in cleaning supplies and even toilet paper!!
This brings up two interesting things I have read today, first:
Nan at All the Good Names Were Taken wrote a very thought provoking post about the way that things have changed around in 150 years from the US being the brains and the Chinese the brawn to build the railroads - to the current plan for the Chinese to be the brains behind the high speed rail here in California and the locals to be the laborers. She quotes from an essay by Robert Borosage in a July issue of Progressive Populist on the funding crises in public education, with class sizes rocketing, hours of instruction being cut, and teachers being furloughed:
"This surely is how great nations decline. Like Rome and Britain before us, Washington now chooses to police the world, even as it cuts back the education of the nation's most vulnerable children. We fight two wars on the other side of the world, spend more defending South Korea from North Korea than the South Koreans do, increase military spending already nearly as great as the rest of the world combined while saying we can't afford vital investments at home.
In April, an iconic article in the New York Times recorded the cost of this folly. The Times reported from Beijing that the Chinese were preparing to bid to build the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The director of high-speed rail in China, Zheng Jian, noted that 'We are the most advanced in many fields, and we are willing to share with the US.'
High-speed rail requires financing, very sophisticated technology and advanced engineering - and China is ready to provide the cash, the technology and the high end engineers and skilled technicians. They would hire Americans to assemble the parts and lay the track."
And then an article on Salon about what they call the creeping of backdoor privatization.
Privatization meant transferring responsibility for entire programs or functions to the private sector. But with the drastic budget cuts that states have been forced to make, responsibility for public services and programs is literally being forced into private hands one roll of toilet paper at a time. We've entered the era of backdoor privatization...What is new, though, is the extent to which families are being asked to contribute basic items. This may be too much to ask of parents who are struggling to pay their own bills -- especially since they’ve already paid taxes that are supposed to support the public school system.
And of course we know it isn't only the schools. It is our police and fire departments. Some cities are turning off the street lights, reducing services for seniors, closing parks and cutting bus services. At what point will Americans wake up and realize that their tax dollars are not always "wasted" by politicians? That a return of the tax on the wealthiest will benefit us all (because the tax cuts sure didn't.)
And look around folks - who is really paying the price of these reduced services? The wealthiest send their kids to private schools. Do you think their kids are toting a bag of toilet paper to school with them? They can afford private transportation, security, medicine and whatever they need.
The best-case scenario is that the impact of these cuts will help people understand just what their tax dollars are paying for and spur greater consciousness about the relationship between public spending and public goods.
I am terribly afraid that we may be looking at the worst case scenario because we do not, and our politicians do not, have the will to speak the truth and make the hard and unpopular choices.