Does anyone care about education?Gabriel A. Fraire / April 28, 2016
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Americans do not support education. We give lip service to it. We like to think that free public education is a good thing and we often pat ourselves on the back about what a great job we do. But be honest. We don’t really care about being educated.
We have all heard the story of some person who has become rich building a money empire of some sort and then the commentator of the story says, “And he didn’t even finish grade school.” And they say it like wow, so rich and he didn’t even need to go to school. They say it like it is an honor, like it is a badge of something great, definitely greater than being educated.
I always wondered what kind of society we would have if that same commentator was brought up to say, “He is the richest man in town, too bad he never finished grade school.”
Today our public education system is broken. In North Carolina, and across the country, the system is woefully underfunded. Some estimate that in North Carolina the educational system is more than $500 million dollars underfunded. And this is just for operational needs. The failing infrastructure is a whole additional point of decay with one recent estimate being that in the next five years the state will need $8 billion to upgrade the facilities simply to make them safe for children.
I believe that education is the gateway to one’s future, that a good education can lift one up and beyond. But I see very few children getting a good education.
Over the next weeks, the Guilford County School District will be going “hat in hand” with a proposed budget to ask for more funding from the Guilford County Commissioners. It appalls me that they have to go “hat in hand” to ask. And I guarantee you some commissioners will object to the school increase request.
It really bothers me that the state funding cuts over the past five years have been so drastic that it is almost impossible for the public school system to survive. Right here in Guilford County there are examples of teachers who must work second jobs to make ends meet. It is also difficult to recruit and keep good teachers when they can go almost anywhere else and make more money. North Carolina ranks 42th in the nation in teachers’ pay.
The proposed school budget is asking for a 3 percent pay raise for all employees which includes non-teaching staff.
Guilford County school bus drivers haven’t had a significant raise in almost seven years. The first and last person many children see coming to and leaving school is the bus driver. Shouldn’t this person be fairly compensated for safe-guarding our children?
And it’s not just salaries; teachers need classroom aides and supplies. It’s ridiculous that teachers have to spend their own money on classroom supplies. And for goodness sake, reduce class size. One adult cannot handle 25-30 children, especially in our current state of affairs where there is a good chance that several of those children will be behavior problems, have special needs, or just come to school hungry.
I try hard not to think that this lack of funding, this pseudo support of education, this disrespect of teachers, is an overt plan by powerful forces who want to keep Americans undereducated. After all, it is easier to control and manipulate people who cannot think.
Our current presidential campaigns lead me to think that maybe the plan is working, that maybe America has been dumbed down to the point that crazy candidates can say anything and find support. Maybe it is too late to turn things around. But I hope not.
If we believe in education we need to stop talking about how much we believe in it and start showing that we believe by supporting education financially. That is if anybody cares.
Gabriel A. Fraire has been a writer more than 45 years. He can be reached through his website at: www.gabrielfraire.com