The Pros and Cons: Funding Public Education Pt. 2

Amy Meier

Investing in the Future – a progressive take by Amy Meier

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson.

Public education is essential to maintain an informed electorate that can fully participate in a democratic government. An ignorant electorate cannot choose an appropriate government, and a corrupt government can easily sway an ignorant electorate. Education is the cornerstone of having an informed public; public education provides the basics our young people need to have a healthy, happy, productive life. This is borne out by the fact that high school drop outs earn less over their lifetime (which means collecting less taxes), are more likely to commit crimes, are more likely to be unhealthy, and are more likely to need public assistance.

Taxes used to fund public education are in investment in the future of American society. We pay for public education through local property taxes, sometimes local sales tax, and federal income tax. Public education acts as a great equalizer in our society, without it our already shrunken middle class would likely vanish completely. Taking a look at societies that lack public education, you will find time and time again that an uneducated population is more vulnerable to victimization, which leads to a host of problems in society – militarization, child soldiers, human trafficking, disease, poverty, slavery – any system where ignorance and powerlessness can be exploited. That’s what it boils down to, education is power. In societies like ours that is already a borderline plutocracy, taking the “public” out of public education would mean no education for millions. The World Bank and the UN support that without education, families have no chance – no tools – to break the vicious cycles of poverty and oppression they may be in. Taxes support our belief in education and opportunity for all kids in America.

Funding public education is pro business. Companies cannot be as productive or efficient if their work force is unskilled and ignorant. Without public education, families would not necessarily have the means to afford private schooling nor the time and skill it takes to teach a child the basics from K-12. In our current hand-to-mouth economy, families struggle to pay for child care while the parents work – millions would simply not be able to educate their children properly. The Dept. of Education is there to see that all states are providing equivalent educational opportunities across the nation.

Admittedly no policy is perfect, especially when it is created by those that hate government involvement. George W.’s NCLB has proven problematic because it attaches all rewards to performance – instead of critical thinking or learning (a typical all or nothing conservative approach). Throwing the baby (public education) out with the bathwater (a troublesome policy) would leave us in a very undemocratic lurch. Luckily, I’m (publicly) educated and empowered enough to try and improve the system – that’s how democracy works.

Be sure the read the complementary piece in our feature The Pros and Cons here, it’s a conservative take by Robert Malt.

Amy Meier is the creator of CivilTongue. As an activist she’s done messaging work for war resistance, hunger solutions, creative entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, spiritual programs, and social justice campaigns. She’s been an advocate for foster children and victims of sexual assault. She also writes commercially. Amy has been studying and promoting Lakoff’s  ideas and applying them to the interactions and confrontation with conservatives in her life. Through a global network of academics, psychologists, sociologists, marketers, spiritual leaders, linguists, and thoughtful people, she has joined a growing community that believes understanding political framing is the key in crafting effective communication. Effective communication can change the world. As a mom, Amy feels like it is her obligation to work for the values she believes in.

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3 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons: Funding Public Education Pt. 2

  1. lokywoky says:

    Some of the biggest problems with our public school system is the unequal funding across districts. California tried to address this issue by putting all the property taxes into a big pool and then reallocating it on a per pupil basis. But it still became problematic when parents in richer areas formed foundations that “endowed” their schools with nicer science labs, full-scale libraries, and so on. Historic unequalities in buildings were never addressed so the historically underfunded LA Unified’s vastly underfunded infrastructure continued to be that way – kids baking in 120 degree heat with no A/C and not a single computer in most of the schools.

    Another big problem for schools is the issue of kids coming to school not ready to learn. As a former school site council member, I was provy to reports regarding the use of funds directed towards different demographic groups within the student population. This was also a big cause for resentment by some parent groups as well. Money for the GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) programs were seen as ‘spending money on kids who already had everything’. Money spent on the lower 25th quartile was seen as money ‘wasted on a bunch of kids who were never going to amount to anything’. The fact was that the special allocations for both of these groups were so small that they were almost useless to really accomplish anything of value anyway.

    The GATE money was divided up and given to the individual teachers to use as they saw fit to try to challenge the students in the classrooms as there was not enough to do pull-out programs for these students. Which is really too bad because what happens too often is that these really bright kids often wind up completely bored out of their minds, and become disruptive and discipline problems. There are actually estimates that fully 70-80% of high school dropouts are actually GATE kids. This is the real waste. And why? They are just bored with the whole thing. The classes are geared toward teaching to the low median.

    Then we get to the bottom quartile. A bigger pot of money is spent on these kids. They are often transient, 95% not staying in the district for the entire school year. They often have psychological problems, are often abused, have hunger issues, parents have alchohol or drug histories, family violence histories, chronic health issues, deep poverty, unemployment, one or both parents involved with justice system and/or in prison, etc. These kids come to school hungry, dirty, in their pajamas, barefoot, with no sleep, and then we get upset when they get into fights with the other children, fall asleep at their desks, or don’t have their homework.

    At our school, we reduced our educational attainment goals for this group, and directed some of the funds to set up an aide who would make sure they got breakfast, a nap, give them a bath and clean clothes (yes we bought a washer and dryer), hired a counselor, and did a lot of family outreach. After a lot of this kind of stuff – our kids actually made a full year of academic progress!

    Of course – all this was before NCLB. Can’t do this kind of stuff now – too much with the tests and crap now.

    I could go on but this kind of community-based thinking about what is needed is more important than more tests and beating up on teachers. I don’t know about that chart – I think too much money on administrators and not enough in classrooms. Jes’ sayin’.

    I could tell some horror stories about NCLB too – having seen that in operation on a reservation and in some other poor schools.

  2. lokywoky says:

    On second thought, more stuff on what’s wrong with our schools.

    Methods of teaching. Kids learn using five different methods. About 60% learn using the “lecture” method – and that is the method used in about 95% of classrooms across the country. It is the easiest way to teach – and that is why most teachers use it. Unfortunately, 40% of kids do not do well with this teaching method. They are the ones who are really falling through the cracks.

    This is not really the teachers fault. They get evaluated by administrators and other people who are not teachers – but people who remember being taught using this same method. And who then expect to see teachers teaching using this method. When students don’t learn – these evaluators then believe (falsely) that the teacher must be doing something wrong. So they insist that the teacher continue to do this method – only better – whatever that means. Of course what should be happening is that the teacher should be teaching according to the other four methods in addition to the lecture method. This would help the other 40% of her students learn too.

    But also unfortunately, some of those other methods require hands-on activities. And the un-teachers see hands-on activities as ‘arts & crafts’ – in other words, useless fun and games. And stuff that can be eliminated (and has been mostly) because all that artsy-craftsy crap costs money and isn’t necessary. Never mind that even the kids who learn best using the lecture method also find hands-on learning enjoyable and that it reinforces their preferred learning method, and that the GATE kids may find the class less boring and the bottom quartile kids may find it a reason to actually show up for class today and….well, you get the picture.

    It would be nice if all the so-called education reformers currently running around were people who had actually been in a classroom full of actual students – and not in a privileged white school but one where the kids were from poor and distressed homes – and for more than one day – and had spent some time with the teachers who have to deal with them for weeks and months to see how they manage. It would be nice if these so-called reformers would spend some quality time with some parents of some of the GATE kids and some of the lower quartile kids, in their homes for a week or so, to see what the challenges are with addressing the needs of the different groups within a mainstream class that must be taught to the lower median. And then they need to sit with the school site council – discuss the budget, and the challenges of the transportation, the infrastructure, the parent concerns, and the school’s 5-year plan. Then they need to attend the teachers union meeting and listen to the teachers concerns – which they may be surprised to find out are mostly about the kids.

    And AFTER they do all that – they might possibly be in a position to actually suggest some real reforms that would actually help for once.

  3. Amy Meier says:

    In my personal experience as a parent, those NCLB tests impede learning and literacy. My son’s teacher and myself both got sample questions incorrect because we could not choose the “most true” answer (among multiple choices that had multiple true options???!!). The questions are very poorly written. I cannot fathom why anyone who cared about children learning would submit these questions.

    I removed my child from the public school that “does really well” on the NCLB tests to a different school that often falls short of the mark. I am fortunate to live in a place that allows this. The new school is awesome because they do more comprehensive “education” (like incorporating food, clothes, therapy, and outreach), and teach compassion and creativity – and so the test scores suffer. Fortunately the school is so on the ball that they also have many amazing teachers that write themselves grant to do really cool stuff for their classes and the community. NCLB is still disruptive in the learning process but I feel like I found a wormhole in NCLB.I wish everyone in the US could experience a public school like ours.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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