Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Price of Education

We are guaranteed a free and public education in America. Free yeah, but the money has to come from somewhere. Most places it's property taxes, right?

I work in a place where taxes are high. Say, $6,000/year for a 4bedroom home in the suburbs. The schools have everything they need. If I need pens or staples, there is a closet in the office where I can got get these supplies. Coaches and club advisors receive decent compensation for their extracurricular activities. We have a full time In-school Suspention teacher plus stipends for after school detention monitors. We have buses for the student to come to school, go home after school, or go home one hour after school so they can attend tutorial sessions, club meetings, detentions, etc... In this community I rarely hear about how expensive schooling is. Every high school has it's own school system and superintendant. Substitutes are readily available so teachers do not have to cover for an absent teacher. If they do, they get compensated. At my school here, we have 2,300 kids: 1 principal, 4 APs, 8 counselors, 7 supervisors (dept heads who do discipline, observation and evaluation), 1 data processing specialist (for grades), 1 librarian and a library aide, 3 computer specialists and 6 secretaries.

I worked in a place for 10 years where the taxes were low. Like $1500/year for a 4 bedroom surburban house. The schools have nothing. If I needed pens, I could go to Staples and buy them myself. If I wanted to be a club advisor, I could do it on my own time for no pay. If I had a discipline problem, there was no detention, no ISS, but I could call the kid's parents - or they could get suspended if it was serious - nothing inbetweeen. We had buses to bring kids to and from school. And in this community the papers are filled with people whining about overspending in the schools and overstaffing. School districts are county wide with up to 15 or 20 high schools in the same systrem with one superintendent. Substitute pay was so low we had mutant zombies come in to sub. Or no one. Teachers regulary gave up their paid planning time to substitute for an absent colleague. For 500 kids at my school we had 1 principal, 2 APs, 2 counselors, a registrar, 1 librarian, 1 science teacher who got 1 extra planning period to work on computer problems and 2 secretaries.

A funny aside: in the high tax area they have all these Volunteer Fire Departments. In the low tax area I never recall seeing a volunteer fire department. The firemen down the hill from my first apartment were always sitting outside the fire house on this bench waiting for a call. Volunteer firemen or volunter teachers? Which one would you pick?

I am in a position to move back to the "low tax" city and work for the schools again. I have family situations and it is a place I need to be. I will never work for free again. If you want your kids in a club or to have a prom or take a class trip to Disneyworld, great, but I will not work for free. It is not fair how many hours these activities take to plan and carry out and it's crazy for the parents to expect us to do our teaching job and spend all kinds of unpaid time for extras.

Education costs. Someone has to pay. I resent being an educated teacher and a bunch of non-educators yelling about how surely we can get by with less. Educating the young people in the community is one of the most important jobs in any community right up there with the police force protecting us and the doctors taking care of us. And citizens who haven't set foot in a school in 50 years are yelling about how we don't need 2 assistant principals? Same folks yell when schools fail to discipline the kids. We can improve the schools by supporting them and letting the professionals decide how many employees they need to do a good job.

To do things right, things cost. Education costs. Someone has to pay.

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