Friday, October 30, 2015

A Plea for National Funding and Control of Education

by Pa Rock
Retired Educator

There are a couple of insurmountable negatives that cripple the concept of public education all across America.  The first is that the process of K-12 education, as it has historically evolved, is paid for primarily through local taxes - and the second is that old codgers, those lacking direct ties to the schools, are primarily the voters who turn out on election day - particularly when the topic of taxes is on the ballot.   Old people on fixed incomes don't like taxes and would walk barefoot to the polls in order to screw with entities that depend on public funding - entities like our schools, our children, and our future.

As an educator, I fought this problem through countless tax levy votes.  When it comes to schools, most of the old voters don't have any skin in the game and can vote "no" with the greatest of ease.  Those are YOUR kids struggling to stay warm while they share text books in that moldy, vermin-infested old building - not THEIRS.  Old people, particularly the variety who sit around listening to Fox News all day, finally have a chance to strut their stuff and wave their flags of defiance when school bond or levy issues come up.

Arizona has one of the absolute worst publicly funded school systems in America.  Coincidentally, the Scorpion State is also a haven for America's retired folk.  Some wags out there even have the temerity to refer to the state as "God's Waiting Room."  Arizona is also where school funding issues go to die.

My good friends at the Dysart United School District in the West Valley of Phoenix are trying to pass a budget override in order to keep their schools functioning at a semi-literate level.  The vote will be next Tuesday.  The last several attempts by Dysart to pass budget overrides have failed horribly, and there is little reason to suspect that next week's effort will fare any better.

My last job at Luke Air Force Base, the one just prior to my retirement, involved working with the local school districts that surround the base - and Dysart was the most prominent of the lot.   I have a good habit of always supporting school bond and levy issues and was active in some of their more recent campaigns that ultimately failed - so now the district has my Arizona cell phone number and I am getting all of their robo-calls regarding next week's vote.  I am up-to-date on the issues and eager to do my part - but unfortunately I now reside in Missouri and can only help the schools out here.  (It's that damned "local control" issue again.)

Something as important as education should not be left to local control.  If it is a critical element of who we are as a nation - our future in a highly educated and skilled society - it ought to be funded and controlled by the federal government at a level where it is safely beyond the reach of the Fox News droolies.

The way it is set up now, rich districts can, and often do, adequately fund their schools, while the poor districts suffer.  There is nothing either democratic or fair about that.

This is America.  If we want our country to be great, to truly be a world leader, we need to provide good education, on a free basis, to all students - kindergarten through college.  And while an educated public might ultimately be a threat to the survival of certain news organizations and racist social groups, it would certainly be good news for the future of mankind in general - and for our children and their children in particular.

Education is a valuable commodity - one that needs to be directed and funded by our national government and safely beyond "local" control.

And as for you, Dysart - stay strong!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

If you were in Kansas this posting would have hit the nail on the head. Here we have two competing sections of the State Constitution. In Article 6 dealing with education Section 5 provides that local school boards will be "maintained, developed, and operated" by locally elected boards. Then in Section 6 the Legislature is mandated to fund schools at a "suitable" level.

The right wing rabid Republicans led by Governor Brownback lost a case in which our Supreme Court said they were not providing suitable funding. In a different case altogether they said that the pension contributions (KPERS) should be added to the education budget. Well Brownback and the loonies added the KPERS to the unsuitable funding and called it good. Another case is going through the courts now.

After not getting sufficient funds the many local boards of Kansas went to Topeka where a board led by Brownback gave some a rainy day bonus. Funds for the rural districts were calculated at a different rate than the urban districts. They got some money and the urban districts by and large got no additional money.

Kansas is losing teachers and I think we may see school closures and/or local districts taking bankruptcy unless sanity is restored in Topeka.