Sunday, November 02, 2008

On Growing Children II

School budgets and the future of the world as we know it: How lack of funding for education is dooming the future of our society, and why it may be related to predjudices against what is percieved as women and women's work.

Clarendon Elementary School PTA raises $400,000 a year to benefit their K-8 programs. Alvarado ES PTA raises $140,000. Monroe ES PTA raises $50,000. Daniel Webster ES doesn't have a PTA, but it might get one this year, but by the time the PTA is formed and on its feet, will have little time left to raise any funds.

Friends of Potrero Hill Preschool parents raise $20,000 a year in a school auction.

How many hours of volunteer time does it take to raise this kind of money? This is not for 'extras' this money is for the basics. From the tours I have attended, I have learned that these schools spend their money on the following:
1. lowering class sizes in the upper grades, which are legally allowed a 30-1 ratio, but are reduced closer to the kindergarten ratio of 20-1.

2. Enrichment educators to teach children while giving classroom teachers one period a week for planning and meeting with other teachers.

3. Classroom supplies

4. Enrichment programs like dance, sports4kids (PE-like games), art, music.

5. Tutoring

6. Afterschool enrichment programs

7. Healthy snacks

How I see it is that we have come to a place in our society where we are expecting parents (but mostly women) to spend their "free time" asking for their community for money to pay for the basics elements of their children's education. Because the PTA's of this city have so easily acquiesced, and gone out and essentially BEGGED merchants, businesses, family and other parents to pony up hundreds of dollars to augment the measily amount California allots to each child (we are currently 38th lowest in the nation for $/child spent on education), the state has said, if they can raise the money, why should we get more?

What is wrong with this picture? First of all, it is mostly women doing the begging, organizing and PTA labor. Just as it is usually women who do the work of two people in an office, while they cannot figure out why they can't hire someone to assist them. Why would the government pony up more money, when the women are out their raising it from the community for them? The precedent has been set.

Is educating children women's work? I know two families personally who appeared to be equal partners in raising their children until the question of schools came up, and in both cases the men just shrugged and said 'what's the big deal'? or 'You decide, I can't bothered'. It is this attitude that led me to wonder if the underlying reason education is not funded is that it is essentially not valued, and as most educators are women (like a mother's or caregiver's role at home during the first 3 years, teacher's work too is not valued, nor renumerated based on the true impact of a successful education or the cost of a failed education).

The line often proffered from non-funders for education in California is that we spend 40% of our state budget on education, and that is too much. Then why are we 38th lowest spender and why are our schools failing? What is the single difference in our schools between now and before Prop 13 lead to the financial starvation and steady decline of our schools, where middle-class parents are pitted against socio-economically disadvantaged children because they are both fighting for the same very small amount of funding for BASIC educational programs. Why are our school building in a state of decrepitude that would make anyone wonder where a societiy's priorities lie. And children do notice. They don't need a room filled with fancy computers, but they do need rooms without rotting floors, and bathrooms that don't reek of urine from rotted-out floor boards.

Just as shocking as having the police tell you that they really can't do much when your car is stolen as they have much bigger issues to deal with, and you do live in the city...this attitude is just not acceptible anymore. We have become so psychologically deformed by accepting what is unacceptible as a society, a community, and as parents. It is time to rise up and say WE AREN'T going to BEG anymore. Our children are our future, and we need to start planning for the future.

The government has no problem bailing out our failing banks, our failing auto industry, and mortagaging the next 100 years for a war we started. It is time to bail out our future and spend the money needed to fix our schools and our educational system so we can have a future worth looking forward to. This is not asking too much. It is what our society has to have to move forward and survive.

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