Here's a thread about Education in the United States (bring in other countries if you would like for context), and how it's currently getting screwed royally in the ass by the number crunchers.
Anyone in the education field at the moment will tell you, budgets are in the red, and no one wants to pay for them. We aren't talking a couple thousand dollars, we're talking over 20 million in some cases.
I’m using District 204 in Naperville, IL as start off because what is happening is very symbolic to education in general.
Here’s a statement by the superintendent about the budget cuts:
Some notable sections:
We have prioritized instruction and have tried to examine all areas against the criteria of minimal impact to students. However, budget cuts of this magnitude are difficult. When you are forced to trim $21.4 million from your budget in a single year, it becomes impossible to not have an impact on our students.
By proposing an increase in class size we will release 145, or 6.5 percent, of our teaching positions
How does a district such as this get in so much debt? We’re seeing the after-effects of the recession that is supposedly “over”. Taxes man. People don't have the money to pay 'em, and this hurts the schools big time.
But good thing we bailed out the financial sector, right? That's the important thing in America, right? Moving on.
What this actually means to the people working in District 204:
-all non-tenured teaching staff are being rifted (aka fired)
-class sizes in high schools are going up to 40, possibly 45 students per room
-music technique and other core music programs are being nixed completely
-if it isn’t math, science, or reading, no one is going to fund it
and other things I'm sure I'll learn about as my spies tell me.
Why are they gutting it from the inside out? Well, it’s a lot easier to hide school financial problems when they’re...hidden. This is a common approach schools are taking to their financial problems: they are firing teachers and staff, increasing the load on the employees who are lucky enough to stay, and keeping the extracurricular programs a Okay.
Why? Because it looks good, that's why. District 204 has a reputation to maintain. And maintain it they will, even if it severely removes whole chunks of education.
Ah, but there’s a catch to keeping extracurricular programs: they are increasing the prices for participation. We’re talking $50-$150 per program.
But lilnoobs, that’s not a big deal, at least they are funding them properly! Oh, but it is. District 204 is unique because it houses both financially well off (and I mean well off) children, and title 1 students who are on free lunch. Basically, the changes also give a big fuck you to the poorer students. (I’m sure this is exactly what the wealthier part wants, as these cuts will eventually lead to the district being split, but that’s fortune-telling on my part).
Let’s rewind back to nixing music technique. Why? Because music technique is basically group private lessons. With that gone, guess who’s going to perform better in the orchestra? Guess who can afford private lessons for their students? Guess who’s going to get the solos, or the performances? Guess what is going to happen there?
"So some students won't have as thorough a music education as they once did. Big deal?" First off, fuck you if you think that. Secondly, District 204 is a leader in the Arts for all of Illinois! They provide equal funding to sports and the arts.
Ever heard of a district that did that?
Guess what? If the leader caves, then the sub-par schools will certainly be like "oh but D204 does it without this, so we can too. Let's cut it!" Goodbye music in IL!
So how did this all happen?
A perfect storm. The recession and housing crash because without taxes from the districts, schools suffer directly. Then idiotic programs and funding from politicians came along, namely, No Child Left Behind.
But anyway, let’s get onto some snippets to see the damage being done. Please remember when reading budget cuts, these school boards don’t find magical ways to eliminate funding. People get fired. In the case for District 204, every single non-tenured teacher.
We all know California is fucked, but here they go cutting education:
California’s governor is proposing deep cuts to health care, education, the state workforce and human service programs beyond those already enacted.  Specific cuts include additional deep reductions to Medi-Cal (Medicaid) services, including increased co-payments and reduced eligibility for immigrants; a $1.5 billion reduction in K-12 and community college funding in 2010-11; a 5 percent to 10 percent cut to state employee salaries; a reduction in Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Program (SSI/SSP) grants by $15 per month; the elimination of the state’s Calworks (TANF) program and a number of other human service programs; and the elimination of funding to respond to enrollment growth in the state’s public universities.
That last part is the most telling. Even though enrollment will increase, California won't respond to the growth with funding. Double whammy.
Here’s something from cbs reporting the similar destruction of education throughout the country:
A survey last month by the American Association of School Administrators reported that school districts are using the one-time funds to preserve some teaching and staff positions, but less than half of the respondents reported being able to save core subject teaching positions, despite receiving stimulus funds.
Of the survey's respondents (representing 160 school administrators in 37 states), 53 percent said they were unable to save teaching positions for either core subjects or special education with ARRA dollars. In addition, majorities said they were unable to save librarian positions (85 percent); school nursing positions (84 percent); maintenance, cafeteria, or transportation staff positions (82 percent); foreign language teaching positions (80 percent); art, music, physical education teaching positions (74 percent); and teaching aide/assistant positions (51 percent).
Look at that. 53% are unable to save teaching positions for core subjects or special needs. That’s over half of districts surveys will be doubling up on their teachers. Then what else can be cut? How about the food your children eat! How about non-important subjects such as foreign language (oh the irony of it all), art, music, PE. If you ain't Math, Science, or Reading GTFO!
Hope you don’t have children at the moment.
This is what cbs uses as one of its sources for the above article and it has some telling exceprts from it as well:
Funding and problems:
The Stimulus does not stimulate anything; it doesn't even help hold the status quo!
Schools and the Stimulus: How America’s Public School Districts Are Using ARRA Funds is the third survey
in AASA’s 2009 Summer Surveys series. This survey finds that while school systems around the nation
appreciate the opportunity the ARRA funding represents, a lack of flexibility in the funding and the use
of the money to backfill federal, state and local budget holes have limited the ability of districts to
implement innovative reforms and changes.
“Because the funding is one‐time, we cannot justify hiring new staff…While
training and new software can spur innovation, one‐time money does not save
jobs. All state stabilization funding went to fill a state budget shortfall, which will
still be there in two years when the money goes away.”
Dear fucking god. What'll happen when the money is gone? Hope people can pay taxes? Ah yeah, that's it. Let the taxpayers pay for the budget debts because banks were irresponsible. But we'll bail out the banks, schools can hold their own.
Well, I've let my views known on what I think about the economic causes for the education problem, but what else?
Let's look at two political bullshit programs that directly affect budgets.
First, we have Race to the Top (what a dumbass name).
Here's the wiki entry to get you updated on it:
And here's extra info to know who is currently "leading" the race and what counts as "winning":
Basically, like many ill-conceived ideas, Race to the Top is a simple principle that doesn’t work in practice.
School pay, and consequently, teacher pay is directly linked to student success. That means, teachers get paid based on their students’ performance. Good idea, right? Well in theory.
Except for the teachers that deserve more pay. You know, the ones who choose to go to underpriveldged schools with their students Title 1 and 90% of them not speaking English as a first language, and their parents not spending any time with them because they are working X number of jobs, and they still can't afford proper housing, food, or anything else. You know, the ones who work the hardest for the people who need it the most.
What this system effectively does in practice is give money to those who already have money. It also doesn't necessarily give money to teachers who work the hardest. It’s utterly garbage, and I was completely and utterly horrified to know that Obama was behind such a pile of steaming puke piss.
Which leads to the next big failure: No Child Left Behind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act
Suffers from many of the same pitfalls as Race to the Top, but also gives the added incentive for schools to discard programs that aren’t tested.
Go back to the top. Why do you think Music is getting gutted in District 204? It’s not on the standardized tests. So besides the pitfalls of the other failure of a program, No Child Left Behind gives the additional incentive to streamline education to Math, Science, and Reading.
Remember Social Studies? There’s some children who don’t even learn Social Studies anymore because it’s not on these tests. When are they going to learn the difference between a country and a continent? How about where places are located on the globe? If it’s not on the test, why should teachers teach it?
Both of those programs sound good, but are rubbish. Race to the Top hasn't been out long enough to see that it's rubbish, but No Child Left Behind has been out long enough that there's plenty of studies linking its bullshit.
But let's take No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top to an extreme, but real example:
To the dismay of many local and national union members, all the teachers, the principal, and other staff of Central Falls High School were fired by the board of trustees this week. The move is part of a dramatic turnaround plan proposed by the superintendent and approved by the state education commissioner.
Don’t be surprised if more of these “turnarounds” happen in the next year.
Furthermore, the two political programs scapegoat the teachers. You know, if the student is dumb then it’s obviously the teacher’s fault, right? If the student doesn't care, it's up to the teacher to make him or her care, right? Bullshit. But that’s not PC. And why should it be the student's responsible for his or her own education? That's madness.
To put all this into a global context, here’s the proportion of GDP America spends on education compared to other countries:
United States ranks 37 out of 132. Not the worst, but for being the world’s leading superpower, how is anything less than #1 in education acceptable? We certainly get rage-filled hard-ons when someone says, "remember the children", but we sure as hell don't practice what we preach (We as in Americans).
Now keep in mind America is 37 on expenditure but effectively #2 on the Duration of Compulsory Education. So we require people to be in school the longest, but don't proportionally fund it? This makes sense how?
I want American education to get better funding through and through. Right now it's underfunded and, consequently, being gutted from the inside out. If it was up to me, I would fund education more than any other service (including Military). Currently, programs like NCLB and Race to the Top don't help education, but rather, hurt it. Streamlining education to the top 3 is a bad thing. Teachers pay should not be directly linked to student success.
Think that's unreasonable?
Let's talk about funding Education in America.